7 Exercises to Do After a Shoulder Fracture

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Woman in physical therapy for shoulder

A shoulder fracture happens when you break a bone in your shoulder—the shoulder blade, collarbone, or the top of your arm bone. Many heal with rest and ice, but some need surgery. Whatever your course of treatment, your doctor will likely recommend exercises during your recovery. Exercises can stabilize and strengthen your shoulder, and help you regain flexibility so you can return to normal activities. Talk with your doctor or physical therapist about which of these exercises might help you, and how often to do them.

1. Pendulum

Bend over at the waist so your upper body and lower body form an “L” shape. Let your injured arm hang straight down. Move your arm in 10 gentle circles in one direction, then switch directions and circle your arm 10 more times. Do 10 more circles once in each direction.

2. Forward Flexion

Lie on your back or sit upright in a chair with your arms in front of you relaxed on your thighs. Clasp your hands together, straighten your elbows, and relax your affected shoulder. Gently lift your arms straight out in front of you, perpendicular to your torso. If your recovering shoulder allows it, continue to raise your arms until they’re straight over your head. Then bring your arms back down. Keep your elbows as straight as possible. Repeat this motion 10 times.

3. Crossover Stretch

Stand up straight. Pull your arm across your chest by holding the outside of the upper arm with your opposite hand. Make sure your opposite hand is holding the upper arm by coming from underneath and not from above your upper arm. Hold your arm there for 30 seconds. Release your arm down, and repeat the exercise with the opposite arm. Perform this exercise 4 to 5 times on each arm.

4. Wall Climb

Stand up straight facing a wall with your arms straight at your side. Lift your injured arm up with your elbow straight, and walk your fingers up the wall as far as you can. Hold your arm there for 10 seconds, and then bring your arm back to your side. Repeat this three times. 

5. External Rotation

There are several ways to do external shoulder rotation. One is to lie on your back with your legs stretched out flat. Hold a broom, yardstick, or cane in both hands, and bend your elbows into a right angle. Use your good arm to push the hand of your injured arm away to the side of your body as far as it can go, keeping your elbow bent and close to your body. Hold for 30 seconds, then bring your arms back to center. Repeat on both sides three more times.

6. Internal Rotation

You have several options for internal shoulder rotation. One is to stand up straight. Hold a broom, yardstick, or cane in both hands behind your back. Use your good arm to pull your injured arm horizontally across your back as far as it can go, still holding onto the broom or cane. Hold for 30 seconds, then bring your arms back to center. Repeat this on the other side. Repeat both sides three more times.

7. Shoulder Shrug

Stand up straight with a light hand weight in each hand. Shrug both of your shoulders up as far as they will go, then bring them back down. Repeat this 20 times. As your shoulder gets stronger, you can increase the weight in each hand by one pound at a time.

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  1. Rehabilitation After Shoulder Arthroplasty. University of Washington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. http://www.orthop.washington.edu/?q=patient-care/articles/shoulder/rehabilitation-after-shoulder-art...
  2. Rotator Cuff and Shoulder Conditioning Program. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00663.
  3. Shoulder Surgery Exercise Guide. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00067.
  4. Shoulder Trauma (Fractures and Dislocations). American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00394.
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 11
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