Hesperian Health Guides

Complete Range-of-Motion Exercises—Upper Limbs

Do these exercises slowly and steadily. Never use force, as this could damage a joint.

Do one joint at a time. Hold the limb steady (stabilize it) with one hand just above the joint, and place your other hand below the joint to move the part through its full range of motion. Here we show the basic exercises only. But remember, try to do them in ways that make it fun!

SHOULDER: arm up and down
An adult lifting a babies hand up and down
Stabilize here.
Raise arm straight forward, and up.

SHOULDER: arm back and forward
Baby's arm being moved forward and back with assistance
Move arm all the way back, and then all the way forward over the chest.

SHOULDER: rotation
Baby's arm being rotated
With elbow bent turn the arm all the way up, then all the way down.

SHOULDER: out to side
Baby's arm being opened to the side and back
Raise arm straight out to side.

ELBOW: straighten and bend
Baby's arm being bent with assistance
Straighten the arm out from the side, then bend the elbow to bring hand up to shoulder.

FOREARM: twist
Baby's hand being twisted up and down with assistance
Holding the wrist twist the hand up, and then twist it down (gently).

WRIST: up and down
Baby's wrist being bent back and forth
Bend wrist back, and then forward.

WRIST: side to side
Baby's hand being bent out and in
Bend to outside. Bend to thumb side. (It will not bend very far to thumb side. Do not force.)

FINGERS: close and open
A baby's arm being made into a fist and being straightened with assistance
Make a fist. Straighten gently.

FINGERS: spread
Baby's fingers being spread with assistance
Spread each finger one at a time.

FINGERS: straighten while bent at hand
Child's hand with fingers bent forward and arrows pointing to joints, adult hand bending fingers of child's hand.
Bend here and
straighten fingers.

THUMB: for grasping
Adult hands extending and bending thumb of child's hand.
Bend thumb toward base of little finger.

THUMB: shut and open
Adult hands bending and extending thumb of child's hand.
Bend the joints of the thumb in all the way, then open thumb all the way to the side.

THUMB: up and down
Adult hands bending and extending thumb of child's hand.
Move straightened thumb down and then up, with palm flat and fingers open.

This page was updated:27 May 2020