Determinants of shoulder and elbow flexion range: results from the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging

A Escalante, M J Lichtenstein, H P Hazuda
Arthritis Care and Research: the Official Journal of the Arthritis Health Professions Association 1999, 12 (4): 277-86

OBJECTIVE: To gain a knowledge of factors associated with impaired upper extremity range of motion (ROM) in order to understand pathways that lead to disability.

METHODS: Shoulder and elbow flexion range was measured in a cohort of 695 community-dwelling subjects aged 65 to 74 years. Associations between subjects' shoulder and elbow flexion ranges and their demographic and anthropometric characteristics, as well as the presence of diabetes mellitus or self-reported physician-diagnosed arthritis, were examined using multivariate regression models. The relationship between shoulder or elbow flexion range and subjects' functional reach was examined to explore the functional significance of ROM in these joints.

RESULTS: The flexion range for the 4 joints studied was at least 120 degrees in nearly all subjects (> or = 99% of the subjects for each of the 4 joints). Multivariate models revealed significant associations between male sex, Mexican American ethnic background, the use of oral hypoglycemic drugs or insulin to treat diabetes mellitus, and a lower shoulder flexion range. A lower elbow flexion range was associated with male sex, increasing body mass index, and the use of oral hypoglycemic drugs or insulin. A higher shoulder or elbow flexion range was associated with a lower likelihood of having a short functional reach.

CONCLUSIONS: The great majority of community-dwelling elderly have a flexion range of shoulder and elbow joints that can be considered functional. Diabetes mellitus and obesity are two potentially treatable factors associated with reduced flexion range of these two functionally important joints.

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