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A flexometer is a measurement tool used to determine the degree of arc a person or material is capable of moving. The two connected arms of the flexometer manipulate or are manipulated by the test subject while distance and tension variations are monitored. Some flexometer models are small hand-held devices used for on-site readings. Larger materials testing flexometers often measure both the flex distances and flex duration to find the limits of what can be withstood without damage or failure. Flexometers are commonly used to gauge progress in physical rehabilitation and the development of new product prototypes.
Flexometers gauge flexibility along a central axis. The center point, or axis, of a flexed material is where the highest levels of stress are applied. A joint connecting two human bones is often the axis upon which human flexibility is gauged. An arc is created when motion is traced between the two extremes of the flex. The range of the arc tells the flexometer user the degree of flexibility.
Tire companies commonly use a mechanical flexometer to test new tire models. Sections from the tire are flexed by flexometers to control the parameters of the test and produce standardized results. The flexometers are often run until a failure is caused by damage to the tire material. Flex tests are only a small part of the rigorous testing new tire varieties go through before they hit the market. Information from the flexometer is frequently factored in when determining the expected road life of tire materials.
Physical therapists, personal trainers, and coaches use a different flexometer instrument to read the flexibility of their clients and team members. Increasing or regaining lost flexibility is often a goal of many training programs. Success and failure in flexibility training is easy to gauge with the simple hand-held device. The two arms of personal flexometers are extended and contracted to measure the flexibility levels in various body positions. Adding readings to a board allows each person to chart the effects of his or her efforts to become more flexible.
Types, costs, and features of flexometers vary greatly. Manual flexometers for personal use usually have analog dial readouts. Industrial flexometers may have a digital display or the capability to interface with a computer directly through software. A digital flexometer is usually programmable for hours or days of materials testing without interruption. There are custom flexometers to meet the specifications of most flex-testing applications.
My grandmother recently had knee replacement surgery and I remember after her physical therapy she would tell me how excited she was to see her progress when they use the flexometer. At the time, I really wasn't familiar with a flexometer. All I really knew was that it was a tool that marked her progress. I had no idea how much accuracy and detail the flexometer recorded each time they checked her.
She said they would lay her flat on her back and the physical therapist would use the flexometer while bending her knee to see the range that should bend. Once she was able to bend her knee at a 90 degree angle, and sit and reach her feet, she would be able to leave the hospital and just go weekly for physical therapy.
It was really heart-warming to see her happy to take the flexometer test rather than apprehensive of the results!