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Physical Therapy for Humerus Fractures – Information, Exercises, and More

Though there are many types of humerus bone fractures, some may be more painful than others, and some fractures may require surgery.

The good news is that a full recovery from a broken humerus bone is possible, and physical therapy can help patients regain strength and range of motion.

In this guide, we’ll discuss humerus fracture causes, symptoms, and treatment. We’ll also explain how physical therapy for a humerus fracture can help patients make a full recovery.



What Is a Humerus Fracture?

Being the only bone in your upper arm and one of the strongest bones in the body, a fracture of the humerus usually occurs from a forceful trauma, like a car accident or a serious fall.

A humerus fracture is a break in the upper arm bone. Based on the location of the fracture, humerus fractures can fall into three categories:

  1. Proximal – A fracture in the upper humerus
  2. Mid-shaft – A fracture in the middle of the humerus
  3. Distal – A fracture near the elbow

Other types of humerus fractures may be categorized as one of the following:

What Causes Humerus Fractures?

Humerus fractures occur when the upper arm experiences a strong hit. 

The type of force strong enough to break the humerus bone commonly occurs in:

  • Car accidents, like those with heavy impact.
  • Sports injuries, like football tackles or spiral fractures from javelin throwing or baseball pitching.
  • Falls, especially when the arm is outstretched.

Bone Weakness and Humerus Fractures

People who suffer from conditions that cause bone weakness may be at a greater risk of sustaining a fracture to the humerus.

Osteoporosis is one of the main bone-weakening conditions that may make it easier to break the humerus. Many people may not even know they have osteoporosis until they break a bone. Women and adults over 50 are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, so bone density screening may be appropriate to diagnose it before a fracture occurs.

Other bone-weakening conditions that may cause humerus fractures include:

Humerus Fracture Symptoms

Humerus fracture symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Inability to move the arm or shoulder
  • Bruising
  • Deformity (a bump or bulge)
  • A grinding sensation when moving the shoulder
  • Bleeding (if it is an open fracture)

Humerus fractures may also result in damage to:

  • Muscles
  • Nerves; and
  • Blood supply

Humerus Fracture Treatment

Before treatment can begin, doctors can make a humerus fracture diagnosis by using one or more of the following imaging tests:

  • X-ray
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • CT scan

X-rays show the damage to the bone, and MRIs and CT scans give doctors a better view of damage to bones and surrounding tissue.

After making a diagnosis and seeing the full picture of the damage to the humerus, a doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments.


For fractures that are minor and aren’t displaced, immobilization may be the only necessary treatment. 

To immobilize the humerus bone, the doctor may suggest wearing a splint or a cast. A sling may also be necessary to help hold the arm and shoulder in place.

The time necessary to wear a splint or cast may vary, but a splint is commonly worn for three to five weeks, while a cast may be necessary for longer — up to eight weeks. It’s common for follow-up X-rays to be taken to ensure proper healing.

Closed Reduction

Closed reduction — realigning the bones — may be necessary for more severe breaks. 

This procedure is non-surgical and involves the physician manipulating your body by pushing and/or pulling to align the broken bone.

Though non-surgical, this procedure can be painful and require the following:

  • Local anesthesia to numb the area
  • Sedatives to relax the body
  • General anesthesia to sleep through the procedure

After this procedure, the doctor will then splint or cast the arm.


Some humerus fractures may require surgery. 

Depending on the severity of the injury, the type of humerus fracture, and the amount of damage to the bone, the following types of surgery may be recommended:

  • Internal fixation – This involves inserting rods, plates, screws, pins, and/or wires to hold the bone in place while it heals.
  • Arthroplasty – This surgery is used when the humerus fracture also results in damage to the elbow or shoulder joint. Arthroplasty is a replacement of the joint with an artificial joint made of metal, ceramic, or plastic.
  • Bone grafting – This procedure may be necessary for severely displaced fractures or those that are not healing properly. Bone is taken from another part of the body and inserted into the humerus bone. Internal fixation may be necessary to hold the bones together for full healing.

Humerus Fracture Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?


Physical therapy can help with recovery from a fractured humerus, whether the injury requires surgery or not.

Recovery from a broken humerus often requires wearing a splint, cast, or sling, which means movement of the arm will be decreased for a number of weeks.

Physical therapy can help patients regain function, range of motion, flexibility, and strength in the arm, shoulder, and elbow.

How Long Is Physical Therapy for a Broken Humerus?

The amount of time needed for physical therapy will depend on the type and location of the humerus fracture as well as its severity. 

In general, physical therapy for humerus fractures may be needed for several months to regain full motion and dexterity in the arm and shoulder.



Best Humerus Fracture Exercises

A physical therapist is the best person to decide which PT exercises are ideal for each patient’s recovery. Physical therapists will design a rehabilitation program with range of motion and strengthening exercises, which will likely be altered as the patient progresses in their recovery.

The following are some exercises that a physical therapist may prescribe for a humerus fracture.

Range of Motion Exercises



This exercise uses the body’s momentum to move the shoulder.

  1. Stand in a location where the non-injured arm can be supported on a surface like a counter or tabletop.
  2. As the injured arm is dangling at the side, bend forward until the back is parallel to the ground.
  3. With the body’s momentum, move the hips clockwise and allow the arm to follow.
  4. Do 10 repetitions clockwise, counterclockwise, backward/forward, and side to side.


Wall Walking

The wall walking exercise helps patients to be able to better raise their arms.

  1. Stand facing a wall.
  2. Place the fingers on the wall at waist height.
  3. “Walk” the fingers up the wall until you feel a stretch in the shoulder.
  4. Hold for several seconds and “walk” the fingers back down.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

Strengthening Exercises


Dumbbell Raises

Strengthening exercises may begin after range of motion exercises have begun — six to eight weeks post-injury. As a patient’s strength improves, dumbbell raises can progress in intensity and weight.

  1. Standing tall, squeeze the shoulder blades together while holding a light dumbbell in your hand.
  2. Keeping the elbow straight, lift the arm in front, to shoulder height.
  3. Hold for several seconds and lower the weight back down slowly.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

You can also perform this exercise by lifting the arm out to the side.


Resistance Band Rows

This exercise is also progressive. As your strength improves, you can advance to tighter resistance bands, which are usually color-coded.

  1. Secure one end of the band to a doorknob at waist height.
  2. Hold the other end of the band in your hand with the elbow bent at 90 degrees.
  3. Keeping the forearm parallel to the ground, pull the band backward and squeeze the shoulder blade toward the spine.
  4. Hold for several seconds and slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Humerus Fractures

In Motion O.C. has helped dozens, if not hundreds, of people who’ve sustained humerus fracture injuries. And we’ve got testimonials and reviews from former clients who share their success stories.

With our experienced team, we provide customized physical therapy sessions to help our clients regain movement and strength, so they can get back to their active lifestyles.

Since we’re the #1 Physical Therapist in the entire country on Yelp, you can trust us to meet your specific needs, whether you’re seeking rehabilitation for a humerus fracture or some other injury or condition.

If you believe physical therapy is the next step in your rehabilitation journey, request a free screening to get started.


The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.

In Motion O.C.