This information describes an arm exercise program that will help you with your recovery. 

Doing arm exercises with gentle movements will help prevent stiffness. It will also help you move better and get back your strength and endurance.

The arm exercises below will help you work on a range of muscle groups. If you have weakness in 1 arm, you can change the exercises as described in the instructions. Your occupational or physical therapist may change the exercises to meet your needs.

Exercise Tips

  • Dress comfortably. Your clothes should not limit your movements. Wear a hospital gown, pajamas, or athletic clothing.
  • Move slowly through all the movements.
  • Do not hold your breath while doing any of these exercises. Breathe deeply. Count out loud during the exercises to keep your breaths evenly paced and remind you to breathe.
  • Do the exercises lying in bed or sitting up straight in a chair. You can also try to do them while standing or sitting at the edge of your bed. If you do them this way, make sure another adult is around. This will help to make sure you are safe and reduce your risk of falling.
  • Stop any exercise that causes you pain or discomfort and tell your occupational or physical therapist. Continue to do the other exercises.
  • If you have any questions, talk with your physical therapist or occupational therapist. 

Exercises

Shoulder shrugs (elevation/depression)

  1. Shrug your shoulders up toward your ears (see Figure 1).
  2. Drop them down (see Figure 2).
Figure 1 Figure 1
Figure 2 Figure 2


Repeat ____ times

Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

Shoulder retraction and protraction

Shoulder retraction (draw back)

  1. Squeeze your shoulder blades together (see Figure 3).
  2. Hold for ____ seconds.
  3. Relax.
Figure 3 Figure 3


Repeat  ____  times.

Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

Shoulder protraction (draw forward)

  1. Draw your shoulders forward (see Figure 4).
  2. Hold for_____ seconds.
  3. Relax.
Figure 4 Figure 4


Repeat _____ times.

Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

Shoulder circles

  1. Roll your shoulders forward in a circle _____ times (see Figure 5).
  2. Roll your shoulders backwards in a circle ______times (see Figure 5).
  3. Relax.
Figure 5 Figure 5


Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

Arm rotations (modified horizontal abduction/adduction)

  1. With your arms at shoulder height, clasp your hands together.
  2. Without rotating from your waist, move your arms to the left (see Figure 6).
  3. Return your arms to the center (see Figure 6).
  4. Without rotating from your waist, move your arms to the right (see Figure 6).
  5. Return your arms to the center (see Figure 6).
Figure 6 Figure 6


Repeat  __ times.

Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

Shoulder flexion/extension

For both of these exercises, if one arm is weaker than the other, clasp your hands together and raise both of them over your head.

Shoulder flexion

  1. Start with your arms at your side.
  2. With your palms facing each other, raise your arms in front of you as far as you can (see Figure 7).
  3. Return to the starting position.
Figure 7 Figure 7


Repeat _____ times.

Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

Shoulder extension

  1. Start with your arms at your side.
  2. With your palms facing each other, raise your arms behind you as far as you can (see Figure 8).
  3. Return to the starting position.
Figure 8 Figure 8


Repeat _____times.

Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

Shoulder abduction/adduction (lateral shoulder arm raises)

  1. Extended your arms out to the side (see Figure 9).
  2. Slowly raise your arms above your head.
  3. Return to the starting position.
Figure 9 Figure 9


Repeat _____times.

Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

If one arm is weaker than the other, have someone help you with your weaker arm.

Shoulder internal rotation

  1. Place your hands behind your back. Use 1 hand to grasp your other wrist (see Figure 10).
  2. Slowly slide your hands up the center of your back as far as you can.
  3. Hold for _____ seconds.
  4. Return to the starting position.
Figure 10 Figure 10


Repeat _____times.

Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

If one arm is weaker than the other, use your stronger arm to help your weaker arm slide up your back.

Shoulder external rotation

  1. Start by slowly raising your hands over your head (see Figure 11a) until you reach the back of your neck (see Figure 11b).
  2. Spread your elbows as far apart as possible (see Figure 11c)
  3. Hold for ______ seconds.
  4. Return to the starting position.
Figure 11a Figure 11a Figure 11b Figure 11b Figure 11c Figure 11c


Repeat _____times.

Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

Elbow extension and flexion

  1. Start with your arms at your sides, with your palms facing forward (see Figure 12).
  2. Bend at your elbow  so that your palm touches your shoulder (see Figure 13).
  3. Return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat _____times.
  5. Repeat the exercise with your other arm.
Figure 12 Figure 12
Figure 13 Figure 13

 

Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

If one arm is weaker than the other, clasp the wrist of your weaker hand and bend your elbows.

Forearm supination and pronation

  1. Rest your forearms on your lap with your palms facing down.
  2. Turn your palms up toward the ceiling (see Figure 14).
  3. Return to the starting position with your palms facing down (see Figure 15).
Figure 14 Figure 14
Figure 15 Figure 15

    Repeat  ____ times.

    Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

    If one arm is weaker than the other, clasp the wrist of your weaker arm. Rotate your forearm turning your palms up and down.

    Wrist extension and flexion

    1. Place your arms on a supported surface such as a table or desk, leaving your wrists free to move.
    2. Turn your palms up toward the ceiling and bend your wrists up and down (see Figure 16).
    Figure 16 Figure 16

    Repeat _____times.

    Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

    If one arm is weaker than the other, use your stronger hand to clasp the weaker wrist. Bend it up and down.

    Lateral wrist deviation (sideways wrist movements)

    1. Place your forearms on a surface such as a table or your lap.
    2. Without moving your elbow or forearm, move your wrists side to side (see Figure 17).
    Figure 17 Figure 17

    Repeat _____times.

    Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

    If one arm is weaker than the other, use your stronger hand to help the weaker hand. Bend your wrist side to side.

    Finger flexing and extending

    1. Place your forearms on a surface such as a table or your lap.
    2. Make a tight fist, and then open your hand and extend your fingers out until they are straight (see Figure 18).
    Figure 18 Figure 18

    Repeat _____times.

    Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

    If one arm is weaker than the other, uuse your stronger hand to bend and straighten the fingers of the weaker hand.

    Finger stretch

    1. Place your forearms on a surface such as a table or your lap.
    2. Slowly spread your fingers apart, then bring them back together (see Figure 19).
    Figure 19 Figure 19

    Repeat _____times.

    Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

    Finger opposition

    Touch each fingertip to your thumb (see Figures 20a-d).

    Figure 20a Figure 20a Figure 20b Figure 20b Figure 20c Figure 20c Figure 20d Figure 20d

    Repeat _____times.

    Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

    Pendulum exercise

    1. Lean over a table and support yourself with your uninvolved arm. Let your involved  arm hang down freely.
    2. Swing your involved arm in clockwise and counterclockwise circles and forward and back (see Figure 21). Let gravity assist your arm with the motion.
    Figure 21 Figure 21

    Repeat _____times.

    Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

    Cane exercise

    1. Lie on your back with your arms at your side, holding a cane or stick.
    2. Lift the cane up toward the ceiling and over your head, keeping both arms level with each other (see Figure 22).
    3. Return your arms to the starting position.
    Figure 22 Figure 22

     

    Repeat _____times.

    Do ___ repetitions ____ times per day

    Contact Information

    You can reach your occupational or physical  therapist at _________________.