Physical therapy plays an important role in the management of pain and dysfunction of the elbow joint.
Physical therapists have a knowledge of the complicated (3-joint) elbow complex and its associated anatomy. They can use
this knowledge to diagnose various structural complications around the elbow as well as proximal and distal parts of
the elbow that can contribute to a patient’s symptoms. This assessment will help them in developing a multi-modal
Range of motion exercises for the elbow may be one component of your Physical therapy program. They are
simple to perform and can help you regain normal motion of your wrist and hand, elbow, and shoulders again.
Pathologies that require an elbow range of motion exercises may include:
- Tennis elbow
- Elbow fracture
- Shoulder pain or injury
- Golfer’s elbow
You can perform elbow ROM exercises two to three times per day or as often as your physical therapist or
healthcare provider prescribes you.
1. Get It Bending
Elbow flexion is a term used for your ability to bend your elbow. You can improve your elbow flexion ROM:
- Stand straight with both arms at your side.
- Bend your elbow up as far as possible, then hold your wrist or forearm with your other hand and slowly
- Hold this position of your elbow for 5 to 10 seconds, and then gradually release the stretch by
straightening your arm(elbow joint).
- Repeat 10 times.
2. Straighten It Out: Elbow Extension
To improve your ability to fully elongate your elbows, you must perform elbow extension ROM exercises. To
- Sit in a straight-backed chair with your elbow placed on a table. You can rest your upper arm on a
folded towel or a pillow or for comfort.
- Stretch your elbow out all the way, and then apply gentle pressure to your wrist or forearm to add
overpressure to the stretch.
- Hold the stretch for 5 to 10 seconds.
- Release the elbow stretch and allow it to bend a bit.
- Repeat the exercise 10 times.
- You can also increase the stretch to your elbow by holding onto a two to three-pound weight.
3. Turn It Over: Forearm Supination
The turning motion of your wrist so that your hand faces up is called supination, and this movement occurs
at both your wrist and at your elbow joint. To improve the supination of your hand, perform the ROM exercise.
To do the exercise:
- Sit or stand with both arms at your side and your elbows bent about 90 degrees.
- Keeping your elbow at your side, turn your hand and wrist over so your palm faces up.
- Use your opposite hand to add overpressure to the stretch and reach underneath the forearm of the
supinated arm. Gently add overpressure by grabbing your wrist and turning the hand further into supination. Hold the
position for 5 to 10 seconds when the stretch is felt.
- Repeat for 10 repetitions.
Once your elbow ROM is improved with these exercises, your physical therapist may shift you toward
strengthening exercises. These exercises may include the DigiFlex, hand gripping exercises with a towel, or with
You may also strengthen your forearm with a dumbbell, and triceps and biceps stretch may be required in
strengthening the muscles around your arm and elbow.