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Range of Motion Exercises for Fractured Shoulder Recovery

author image Erica Roth
Erica Roth has been a writer since 2007. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and was a college reference librarian for eight years. Roth earned a Bachelor of Arts in French literature from Brandeis University and Master of Library Science from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her articles appear on various websites.
Range of Motion Exercises for Fractured Shoulder Recovery
Close up of shoulder injury Photo Credit Artem_Furman/iStock/Getty Images


Your shoulder is made up of the clavicle, or collarbone, the humerus, which is the bone in your upper arm, and the scapula, which is your shoulder blade. Two of these three bones--the clavicle and the humerus--can be fractured easily if you are have a trauma to your shoulder. A fractured shoulder is treated by immobilizing your arm for several weeks, depending on the extent of your injury, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Range of motion exercises are prescribed as part of the recovery process to help you regain full use of your shoulder and arm.

Pendulum in Prone Position

After your fracture has healed, your shoulder will not be as flexible as before the break. You will need to loosen the muscles and work at regaining your normal range of motion in the joint. The Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma explains that pendulum exercises can both ease the pain of a shoulder injury as well as reduce the stiffness you may feel, making it easier to move your shoulder. Pendulums are done in a prone position--lying on your stomach--may be easier for you to approach as part of your fractured shoulder recovery. Lie on a bed or table so that your affected arm is hanging off the edge. Your arm should be perpendicular to the floor, with your fingertips pointed at the floor. Swing your arm back and forth, making wide, slow sweeps while relaxing all of the muscles in your upper body. If you feel pain at any point, stop and readjust your arm so that you are not pushing it as far back or forward. Try to continue the exercise for up to five minutes if possible.

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Pendulum in Standing Position

Pendulum exercises from a standing position may be a little harder until you have built strength in your injured shoulder, because you are working against gravity as opposed to the more relaxed prone positioning. Bend at your waist, no more than a 90-degree angle. Keeping your arm straight and fingers pointing to the floor, slowly swing your arm back and forth in the same manner as the prone pendulum exercise. As you heal, your physical therapist may advise you to hold a small hand weight as you perform this range of motion exercise to increase your strength. Substitute a can of soup or a full bottle of water if you do not have hand weights.

Wall Climbing

Rehabilitation for a fractured shoulder might include wall-climbing exercises, though not the kind you expect using a rock wall. Wall-climbing exercises help develop your overarm range of motion. Place your hand flat on a wall and use your fingers to progress up the wall, almost as if you were walking with your fingers. Go as high as you can without pain. Ask your doctor or physical therapist how many times daily you should perform wall-climbing for your shoulder.


Due to the immobilization that has helped your fractured shoulder heal, you will be stiff and unable to rotate your shoulder normally. Rotation exercises re-develop this skill. The Family Practice Notebook website splits these drills into internal and external rotations. Both of these stretches are done from a standing position. Begin an internal rotation by putting both arms behind your back and clasping your hands together, down near your buttocks. Slowly draw your arms up toward your head, keeping your hands together and your arms as straight as possible. Return your arms to the original position to complete one repetition. External rotations start with your hands clasped behind your neck, with your elbows out at your sides. Bring your elbows slowly forward toward your face, and backward, like a bird flapping its wings. Discuss the number of repetitions you should be doing of each exercise with your physical therapist or physician.

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