Range of Motion Exercises for Fractured Elbow

Physiotherapist with patient

Rehabilitation exercises for fractured elbows are necessary for recovery. Exercises may be done alone or with a physical therapist depending on what your doctor recommends. Range of motion (ROM) exercises should not be confused with strengthening exercises. ROM exercises improve flexibility and movement so the elbow can regain its mobility. The full healing process takes approximately eight to 10 weeks.

Pronation/Suppination Stretch

Pronation and supination refer to the movement of the forearm so that the palm faces downward. Supination is the opposite rotational movement that brings your palm to face upward as if trying to hold a bowl of soup without spilling the contents. To perform this ROM stretching exercise, extend your injured arm in front of you as if to shake someone's hand. Supinate your arm to turn your palm to the ceiling. Pronate your arm to face your palm toward the floor. Perform the advised number of repetitions.

Bicep Stretch

Tight biceps inhibit elbow movement as the biceps flex or bend the elbow so that the angle of the elbow decreases. Therefore, stretching the biceps improves ROM. To stretch the bicep of your fractured arm, bring your arm straight in front of you at shoulder level. Supinate your arm.

Press your arm backwards until you feel a stretch. Pause for three to five seconds. Perform the advised number of reps. You may do this stretch with both arms at the same time if you prefer. You may also feel your chest and shoulders stretching too.

Active Assistive Extension/Flexion of the Elbow

The active assistive extension and flexion of the elbow exercise is a ROM exercise performed with a physical therapist or assistant. Your muscles work first to extend your elbow as another person helps you. An active exercise would be to move your elbow entirely with your own power. A passive exercise would be to allow another person to move your elbow for you. This exercise is a compromise between both.

Lie on your back with your elbow completely bent, your palm resting on your shoulder. An assistant holds your wrist and the area beneath your elbow. Straighten your arm toward the surface you are lying on as the other person assists your movement. Bend the elbow again to touch your palm back to your shoulder. This is elbow flexion.

Partially use your own strength and partially allow your assistant to help you. It may be that your muscles are not strong enough to do one or both movements without help, in which case you can put as much effort into the movements as possible.