pISSN 2288-6982
eISSN 2288-7105



Review Article

Phys. Ther. Korea 2021; 28(1): 13-17

Published online February 20, 2021

© Korean Research Society of Physical Therapy

Clinical Application and Limitations of the Capsular Pattern

Wootaek Lim1,2 , PT, PhD

1Department of Physical Therapy, College of Health and Welfare, Woosong University, 2Woosong Institute of Rehabilitation Science, Woosong University, Daejeon, Korea

Correspondence to: Wootaek Lim

Received: January 18, 2021; Accepted: January 21, 2021


A normal range of motion is essential for performing activities of daily living. The capsular pattern is the proportional motion restriction in range of motion during passive exercises due to tightness of the joint capsule. Although the capsular pattern is widely referred to in clinical practice, there is no scientific evidence to support the concept. In this review, the appropriateness of the capsular pattern for evaluation of joint pathology was assessed. In the Textbook of Orthopaedic Medicine written by Cyriax, the capsular pattern did not specify how much reduction in angular motion is considered motion restriction. As the definition proposed initially was unclear, different methods have been used in previous studies investigating capsular pattern. In addition, the capsular pattern described all the major joints of the human body, but only the hip joint, knee joint, and shoulder joint were studied in experimental studies. Sensitivity and specificity were reported in one study and were meaningful in specific pathologies (loss of extension to loss of flexion). There was no consensus on the reliability and validity. In summary, the capsular pattern suggested by Cyriax or Kaltenborn is not supported or applies only to certain conditions. Various components around a joint complement each other and provide stability to the joint. It is recommended that the therapist perform multiple assessments rather than rely on a single assessment when evaluating joints.

Keywords: Joint capsule, Joint range of motion, Soft tissue injury