Range of Motion Exercises for Fractured Shoulder Recovery

man holding his shoulder in pain
Range-of-motion exercises can help you recover from a shoulder fracture. (Image: 5432action/iStock/Getty Images)

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body. A fracture in this area can significantly limit this motion and impact your day-to-day activities. Regaining the arm's mobility is a key part of rehabbing from your injury. Simple stretching exercises can help improve movement after a shoulder fracture.

Dowel Stretch

This stretch helps to improve external rotation in your shoulder. This motion is used when you comb your hair or fasten a seat belt.

Step 1

Lie on your back and bend both elbows to a 90-degree angle. On your fractured arm, keep the elbow tight against your body and the palm facing inward.

Step 2

Hold the end of a cane or dowel in the hand of the fractured arm. With the other hand, gently push the dowel so the forearm of the fractured shoulder moves away from your body.

Step 3

When a gentle stretch is felt, hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds. Then, release the hold and return to the starting position. Do this three to five times.

Wall Slides

Wall slides focus on shoulder flexion, which is utilized when putting away a dish in a high cabinet or changing an overhead light bulb.

Step 1

Stand 6 to 12 inches away from a wall. Place the palm of your fractured arm against the wall with a towel in between.

Step 2

Without allowing your trunk to lean backward or your shoulder to shrug, slowly slide the towel straight up the wall. You may need to take a step forward as your range of motion improves.

Step 3

Once you feel a light stretch, hold it for 15 to 30 seconds before sliding the towel back down the wall again. Complete three to five of these stretches.

Towel Stretch

Towel stretches improve shoulder internal rotation. This motion is necessary to scrub your back or tuck in your shirt.

Step 1

Drape a long towel or sheet over your non-injured shoulder so that it falls down your back to waist level. Hold the end of the towel in front of your body with your non-injured arm.

Step 2

With your fractured arm, carefully reach behind your body and grab the other end of the towel.

Step 3

Lightly pull on the towel with your good arm. This will cause your injured arm to move up your back. Make sure not to be too forceful with this stretch. When you feel a gentle pull, maintain the position for 15 to 30 seconds before releasing the tension. Perform this exercise three to five times.

old hands clasped on knees
By clasping your hands, you can use the non-injured arm to the help the fractured one. (Image: Anna Gafiyatullina/Hemera/Getty Images)

Hand-Hold Stretch

In this range-of-motion exercise, the uninjured arm helps improve shoulder flexion range of motion on the fractured side.

Step 1

Lie on your back. Keep both arms straight and clasp your hands together near your abdomen.

Step 2

Without bending your elbows, use your non-injured arm to lift your fractured arm away from your stomach and over your head. The injured side can assist with the motion as tolerated.

Step 3

When you feel a light stretch, hold it for 15-30 seconds before slowly moving the arms back to your waist. Complete three to five of these stretches.

Tabletop Stretch

This stretch emphasizes shoulder abduction, a motion in which your arm lifts away from your body and overhead. Abduction is used when shaving your underarms or putting on a shirt.

Step 1

Stand with a shoulder-level counter or surface on the side of your injured shoulder. Place the forearm and palm of the fractured shoulder on the counter. If needed, a towel may be used to elevate the forearm to the proper height.

Step 2

Slowly walk your body away from the surface as you bend toward the injured side. Make sure not to lean your body’s weight onto the fractured shoulder.

Step 3

When you feel a light pull, hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds before returning to the starting position. Do three to five repetitions of the exercise.

Be Careful

To improve the range of motion in your injured shoulder, each stretch can be done two to three times daily. While you should feel a stretch, it is important not to cause additional pain while exercising. Make sure to consult your doctor before beginning to stretch a recently fractured shoulder.

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