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In physical therapy, occupational therapy and physical training, the goniometer is an instrument which can measure a variety of joint angles in the body. This instrument is a useful, clinical tool that gives way for neutral measurements to exactly track progress in a rehabilitation program that includes damaged knees and joints. When a patient has a declined range of motion, the therapist will evaluate the joint before carrying out an intervention and will continue to use the tool to ensure that progress is made. The range of motion measurements can be calculated at any joint and they characteristically involve some facts about the structure of the body. A typical example is measuring the knee joint, the axis would be placed on the lateral epicondyle of the femur, while the stationary arm would be lined up with the greater trochanter of the femur. The moveable arm of the goniometer can be lined up with the lateral malleolus of the fibula and a measurement will be taken using the degree scale on the circular part of the tool. The single hindrance with goniometers is the accuracy of the reading is never the greatest.
Issues with the intra-measure (between measures) and inter-tester (between clinicians) reliability seem to increase as the experience of the examiner decreases. Some studies suggest that these errors can be somewhere between 5 and 10 degrees.
These goniometers come in different versions that some say will increase the dependability of the tool. The universal standard goniometer is made up of plastic or metal tool with 1-degree increments. The arms are not more than 12-inches in length, so it is difficult to accurately pinpoint the accurate position needed for measurement. Generally, more reliable goniometer would be the telescopic-armed goniometer. It has a plastic circular axis similar to a classic goniometer, but the arms extend out as much as 2 feet in length.
In recent days, smartphone app developers have created apps that perform like a goniometer. These apps (Knee Goniometer) use the built-in accelerometers in phones and calculate the angles of the joints measured. Tremendous amount of research recently done supplies these applications and the devices as reliable tools that have accuracy as the universal goniometer
Contemporary rehabilitative therapy motion capture systems perform goniometry at the very smallest measuring active range of motion. While in some cases accuracy may be lesser to using a goniometer, measuring angles using a motion capture system is superior in providing measurement during lively, as opposed to motionless situations. Besides, using a traditional goniometer is time consuming.