Range of Motion Exercises for Fractured Shoulder Recovery

Breaking your shoulder can significantly impact your ability to perform basic daily tasks, such as dressing and showering. This ball and socket joint is formed by your humerus (upper arm bone) and scapula (shoulder blade).

There are several shoulder stretches you can do to help with your range of motion.
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The socket is deep in your shoulder joint and relatively well protected. When a shoulder fracture occurs, it most often affects the humerus. However, fractured shoulder recovery exercises can help.

Following Doctor's Orders

Your shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in the body. In order for your bone to heal, your doctor may require you to immobilize it for a period of time by wearing a sling. This can lead to joint stiffness and loss of range of motion.

Range-of-motion exercises often begin six to eight weeks after your injury, according to the University of Utah Health Care. However, certain movements might be restricted longer — especially if you've had surgery.

Do not attempt to exercise until your doctor has given you clearance — especially if you have had surgery, as discussed by the Mayo Clinic. For best results, perform shoulder fracture rehab exercises under the supervision of a physical therapist.

Read more: What Exercises Can I Do After a Broken Clavicle Bone?

Fractured Shoulder Therapy

Range-of-motion activities can be performed in a variety of ways in physical therapy. Your specific shoulder fracture rehab exercises will depend on your phase of recovery and the extent of your injury.

Dowel shoulder mobility exercises, as recommended by Princeton University Athletic Medicine, are initiated when you are allowed to move your injured shoulder with the help of your other arm.

These exercises use a dowel, or stick, to help movement. Perform each exercise 10 times, working up to three sets in a row. Hold each position for two to three seconds, then slowly return to the starting position.

Move #1: Flexion

  1. Lie on your back holding the dowel with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Begin with the dowel resting across your hips.
  3. Keeping your elbows straight, slowly raise the dowel up over your head as far as possible.

As your strength improves, perform this move in a standing position for a greater challenge.

Move #2: Abduction

  1. Lie on your back with one end of the dowel in each hand.
  2. On the affected side, grasp the dowel with an underhand grip — your palm should be facing up.
  3. Lift your arm out to the side while pushing the opposite end of the dowel with your unaffected arm. Your arm should be parallel to the ground throughout the movement.

This exercise can also be progressed to a standing position.

Move #3: External Rotation

  1. Sit up straight with your elbows by your side.
  2. Hold one end of the dowel in your hand on the affected side.
  3. Grasp the middle of the dowel with your other hand.
  4. Keeping your elbow tight against your side, rotate your forearm away from your body.
  5. Push the dowel with the opposite arm to assist your movement.

Move #4: Extension

  1. Hold the dowel horizontally behind your back.
  2. Slowly lift your arms up and away from your back. Be careful not to lean forward during this movement.

Read more: Exercises to Reduce Shoulder Blade Pain

Move #5: Internal Rotation

  1. Hold the dowel horizontally behind your back.
  2. Slide your affected arm toward your spine.
  3. Gently pull the dowel out to the side with the unaffected hand to assist this movement.
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