Bed Mobility in Physical Therapy

If you are injured or ill, you may not be able to move around normally due to weakness, decreased range of motion, or pain. You may benefit from physical therapy to help you get back to your normal functional mobility.

Elderly woman in comfortable bedroom setting talking to a medical professional, both smiling
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Your physical therapist can assess your ability to move around in different locations. Moving in bed is one of those locations. Bed mobility is your ability to perform specific motions while in bed. Your physical therapist can assess your bed mobility and offer strategies and exercises to improve bed mobility.

If you are hospitalized or confined to home, your physical therapist may assess various areas of functional mobility. These may include bed mobility, transfers (sitting to standing motions), and walking. Acute care physical therapists are trained to assess these motions and functions and prescribe treatments to get you moving better.

Different Motions in Bed Mobility

When your physical therapist checks your bed mobility, he or she will assess different motions. These may include:

  • Scooting up or down
  • Scooting sideways
  • Rolling over
  • Twisting and reaching
  • Lifting your hips (as in bridging)
  • Moving from sitting to lying down in bed
  • Moving from lying down to sitting up in bed

All of these motions require strength in different muscle groups. By checking out your different motions in bed mobility, your PT can drill down on specific muscle groups that may be weak or that may benefit from exercise to get your bed mobility back to normal.

If you go to PT in an outpatient clinic or rehab room in the hospital, your PT may have you work on your bed mobility on a treatment table. No need to worry; the same motions you do on the treatment table can be done in your bed once you are back in your bedroom.

Why Bed Mobility Is Important

Our bodies are meant to move. If you are not able to move well in bed, your body may suffer from disuse atrophy or a wasting away of muscular strength. This can lead to increased difficulty with mobility.

Not being able to move in bed can also lead to pressure ulcers, especially if you are severely deconditioned and remain in one position for a long period of time. Your skin may start to break down, leading to painful wounds that need specialized care to heal. Being able to move properly in bed can help prevent pressure ulcers.

Improving Bed Mobility

If you are having difficulty moving in bed, you can do things to help improve your condition. Your physical therapist can prescribe specific exercises to improve your bed mobility. Muscle groups that your PT will focus on include:

As you can see, moving around in bed takes your entire body. Your hips, legs, arms, and shoulder all work together to make sure you have good bed mobility.

Various exercises that you can do to improve your bed mobility may include:

Before starting any exercise for your bed mobility, talk to your healthcare provider to ensure that exercise is safe for you to do. Working with a physical therapist can ensure that you are doing the right exercises for you and that you perform the exercises properly.

Preventing Loss of Bed Mobility

Are there things you can do to prevent problems with bed mobility? Yes! First and foremost, maintaining appropriate physical fitness can help you remain active and mobile. Working on bed mobility exercises prescribed by your physical therapist can keep the right muscle groups working properly.

Sometimes, surgery or illness weakens your muscles and endurance, and this may lead to a temporary loss of bed mobility. Your PT may have you use specific devices, like an over-the-bed trapeze or a sliding board, to help you move around in bed. Talk to your healthcare provider and work closely with your physical therapist to make sure you are able to move normally in bed after injury, illness, or surgery.

A Word From Verywell

If you are having difficulty with functional mobility, your physical therapist can assess the way you are moving around while walking, rising from sitting, and in bed. By having an understanding of what bed mobility is and how you may improve your bed mobility, you can be sure to quickly and safely get back to your normal activity level.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. O'Sullivan SB, Schmitz TJ. Improving Functional Outcomes in Physical Rehabilitation. Philadelphia, PA; F.A. Davis Company: 2016.

  2. Bhattacharya S, Mishra RK. Pressure ulcers: Current understanding and newer modalities of treatmentIndian J Plast Surg. 2015;48(1):4–16. doi:10.4103/0970-0358.155260

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.