A break to the long bone in the upper arm requires medical attention and supervision. The humerus extends from the shoulder to the elbow joint and helps you position your hand for activities such as eating. Treatment for a fractured humerus usually involves immobilization in a collar and cuff or a cast for six to eight weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. Physical therapy exercises during the active recovery stage help you regain range of motion, strength and functioning in your arm and shoulder.
Build Those Biceps
Your physical therapist will give you the green light when it's safe to start exercising post-injury. When approved, biceps exercises will strengthen the muscles on the front of the upper arm that flex the elbow and aid in lifting objects. Do biceps curls with a light weight that you can lift 10 to 12 times before becoming fatigued for three sets. Hold a weight in each hand with arms straight by your sides and palms facing up; bend your elbows to slowly lift the weight toward your shoulders, and then slowly lower back down.
Tighten the Triceps
The triceps muscles on the back of the upper arm become weak post-fracture. Tone up these muscles with triceps kickbacks using a light weight that you can complete three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions before fatigue. If your fracture was the right arm, stand on your right leg and rest your bent left knee on a flat bench. Bend forward at the waist so your left hand grips the edge of the bench for support, and flatten your back. Hold a light weight in your right hand, bend your elbow so your right upper arm is parallel to your torso and your forearm hangs perpendicular to the floor. Keep your upper arm steady as you contract the triceps to straighten your right forearm behind you without moving your elbow and upper arm. Pause before returning to the start position.
Strengthen the Shoulders
Your physical therapist may start you on shoulder strengthening exercises with weights anywhere from 10 to 12 weeks post-fracture. A shoulder front raise exercise improves forward flexion range of motion and strengthens the deltoids for lifting activities. Stand tall holding a light weight, palm facing down. Raise your arm straight up in front of you to shoulder height, pause and then lower it. Repeat 10 times for three sets or until fatigued.
The Hand Connection
A fractured humerus can decrease your grip strength if you weren't regularly using your arm and hand for lifting and gripping during recovery. Strengthen the hands with gripping exercises. Squeeze a small ball that fits into the palm of your hand comfortably 10 to 15 times for a total of three times throughout the day.
- Humpal Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Centers: Adult Humerus Fractures
- Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques; Carolyn Kisner, PT, MS and Lynn Allen Colby, PT, MS
- American Council on Exercise: Dumbbell Triceps Kickback