Arm Exercises for Spinal Cord Injury

Arm Exercises for Spinal Cord Injury

___ Shoulder shrug (scapular elevation / depression)

  • Shrug your shoulders.
  • Return to a resting position and push your shoulders downward.
  • Repeat this motion 10 times.
shoulder shrug

___ Forward shoulder roll

 
  • Roll your shoulders forward.
  • Repeat this motion 10 times.
forward shoulder roll

___ Backward should roll

 
  • Roll your shoulders backward.
  • Repeat this motion 10 times.
backward shoulder roll

___ Scapula glide

 
  • Have someone grasp your shoulder blade (scapula) and move it gently:
    • Up, toward your shoulders
    • Down, toward your bottom
    • In, toward your spine
    • Out, toward your arm
    • Rotate it back and forth
  • Repeat motions ___ times, holding each stretch ___ seconds. Repeat with other shoulder blade. 
scapular glide

___ Arm raises (shoulder flexion)

 
  • Bring your arm up in front of you as high as you can. Stop if you feel pain.
  • If you cannot move your arm alone, have someone hold your arm at the elbow and at the wrist, and gently raise your arm up, pushing above the elbow.
  • When your arm is as high as it can go without hurting, hold it there for ___ seconds. 
  • Repeat this motion ___ times. Do this with both arms.
arm raises

___ Reaching backward (shoulder extension)

 
  • In order to do this motion, you will need to sit in a chair that allows your arm to move past your body, or lay on your side.
  • Begin with your arm at your side.
  • Reach behind you as far as you can. Your elbow may bend as you reach back.
  • Stop if you feel pain.
  • If you cannot move your arm alone, have someone support your arm at the elbow and at the wrist and gently guide it through the motion.
  • Repeat this motion ___ times, holding ___ seconds each. Do this with both arms.
reaching backward

___ Hug yourself (shoulder horizontal abduction / adduction)

 
  • Hold your arm out to the side at shoulder level.
  • Move your arm across your chest, so that your hand touches the opposite shoulder. Then move your arm back to the original position.
  • Stop if you feel pain. If you cannot move your arm alone, have someone hold your arm at the elbow and the wrist and gently guide your arm across your chest.
  • Repeat this motion ___ times, holding ___ seconds each. Do this with both arms.
shoulder hug

___ Comb your hair and pull up your pants (shoulder internal / external rotation)

  • Hold your arm up as if you are combing your hair.
  • Then, keeping your upper arms out to the side, bring your forearms down to your hips, as if you were going to pull up your pants.
shoulder internal rotationshoulder external rotation
  • If you cannot do this motion alone, have someone hold your arm out to your side by supporting it at the elbow.
  • With their other hand, have them hold your arm at the wrist and gently guide it through the motion.
  • Repeat this motion ___ times, holding ___ seconds each. Do this with both arms.
 

___ Jumping jack (shoulder abduction)

 
  • Bring your arm out to the side, away from your body, like you would do in a jumping jack.
  • Raise your arm as high as you can.
  • Stop if you feel pain. If you cannot move your arm alone, have someone hold your arm at the elbow and at the wrist, and gently raise your arm up.
  • When your arm is as high as it can go without hurting, hold it there for ___ seconds. Repeat this motion ___ times. Do this with both arms.
jumping jack

___ Arm curls (elbow flexion / extension)

 
  • Start with your arms at your sides. Bend at the elbow, and bring your hands to your shoulders.
arm curl
  • If you cannot do this motion alone, have someone hold your arm above the elbow, and place their other hand on your forearm. Using their hand, they should gently guide your arm through the motion. Then straighten your arm out. Stop if you feel pain.
arm curl
  • Repeat this motion ___ times, hold ___ seconds each. Do this with both arms.
 

___ Palm up, palm down (pronation / supination)

 
  • Begin with your palm facing the ceiling.
  • Turn your palm toward your body until your palm is facing the floor. Then, turn your hand back so your palm is facing up again.
  • If you cannot do the motion alone, have someone hold your arm at the wrist and gently turn your hand. Stop if you feel pain.
  • Repeat this motion ___ times, holding ___ seconds each.
  • Do this with both arms.
palm up, palm down

___ Tenodesis stretch (wrist extension and finger flexion / wrist flexion and finger extension)

  • Start with your palm facing down.
  • Bend at the wrist so that your hand moves up toward the ceiling. At the same time, bend your fingers, so you are making a fist.
  • Then let your wrist relax so that your hand is hanging toward the floor. At the same time, straighten out your fingers.
  • If you cannot do this alone, have someone help you by supporting your arm with one hand and bending your fingers into a fist while pulling gently up on your hand to bend the wrist. Then have them let go and straighten your fingers.
  • Repeat this motion ___ times, holding ___ seconds each. Do this with both arms.
  • Never let anyone bend or extend your wrist up and straighten your fingers at the same time. This stretches out the tendons, and lowers your chances for having a useful grasp.
tenodesis stretch

___ Thumb exercises (thumb flexion)

 
  • Begin with your thumb at the side of your hand.
  • Move your thumb across your palm until it reaches the base of your little finger.
  • Bring your thumb back to the starting position.
  • If you cannot do this motion alone, have someone gently move your thumb across your palm.
  • Repeat this motion ___ times, holding ___ seconds each.
thumb flexion

___ Thumb exercises (thumb flexion)

 
  • Begin with your thumb at the side of your hand, with it facing the ceiling.
  • Move your thumb upward so it points to the ceiling.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • If you cannot do this motion alone, have someone gently move your thumb toward the ceiling, and back.
  • Repeat this motion, ___ times, holding ___ seconds each.
thumb flexion

© 2001 – July 1, 2019. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

This handout is for informational purposes only. Talk with your doctor or healthcare team if you have any questions about your care. For more health information, call the Library for Health Information at 614-293-3707 or email: health-info@osu.edu.