4 Elbow Range of Motion Exercises

If you have elbow pain or an injury to your elbow, wrist, or shoulder, you may benefit from physical therapy (PT) to help improve your ability to use your arm normally without pain. Your physical therapist will work with you to develop a plan of care to help you return to your previous level of function.

Although therapeutic modalities like electrical stimulation and ultrasound may be used during your elbow rehab, exercise should be the mainstay of your physical therapy program. Your therapist will likely develop a home exercise program for you to do to improve your elbow range of motion (ROM) and strength so you can get back to normal use of your arm.

Elbow range of motion exercises may be one component of your PT program. They are simple to do and can help you move your wrist and hand, elbow, and shoulder normally again. A typical PT exercise program for an elbow injury includes gaining ROM first and then building strength in that new ROM.

Conditions that may require you to perform elbow range of motion exercises may include:

Here is a step-by-step exercise program that your physical therapist may prescribe for you to improve your elbow range of motion. The exercises can be done daily as part of an elbow rehabilitation program. Before starting this, or any other exercise program, check in with your healthcare provider to ensure that exercise is safe for your specific condition.

Elbow ROM exercises can be performed two to three times per day or as often as prescribed by your physical therapist or healthcare provider. You should feel a slight stretch as you perform each of the elbow ROM exercises; if any exercise causes an increase in pain, though, you must consult your healthcare provider.


Get It Bending: Elbow Flexion

Physical therapist helping man bend elbow

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Elbow flexion refers to your ability to bend your elbow. To improve your elbow flexion ROM:

  1. Stand with your arm at your side.
  2. Actively bend your elbow up as far as possible, then grasp your forearm or wrist with your other hand and gently add overpressure.
  3. Hold the bent position of your elbow for five to 10 seconds, and then release the stretch by straightening your elbow.
  4. Repeat the exercise 10 times.

Straighten It Out: Elbow Extension

To improve your ability to fully straighten your elbow, you must work on elbow extension ROM exercises. To do this:

  1. Sit in a chair with your elbow resting on a table. You may want to rest your upper arm on a pillow or folded towel for comfort.
  2. Straighten your elbow out all the way, and then apply pressure to your forearm or wrist to add overpressure to the stretch.
  3. Straighten your elbow out as far as you can with overpressure, and hold the stretch for five to 10 seconds.
  4. Release the stretch and allow your elbow to bend a bit.
  5. Repeat the exercise for 10 repetitions.

You can also add a bit of stretch to your elbow extension by holding onto a 2- to 3-pound weight.


Turn It Over: Forearm Supination

The ability to turn your wrist over so your hand faces up is called supination, and this motion occurs at both your elbow and at your wrist joint. To improve your ability to supinate your hand, perform the forearm supination ROM exercise.

To do the exercise:

  1. Stand or sit with your arm at your side and your elbow bent about 90 degrees.
  2. Keep your elbow at your side and turn your wrist and hand over so your palm faces up.
  3. To add overpressure to the stretch, use your opposite hand and reach underneath the forearm of your supinated arm. Grab your wrist and gently add overpressure by turning your hand further into supination. When a stretch is felt, hold the position for five to 10 seconds.
  4. Repeat elbow supination ROM for 10 repetitions.

Forearm and Elbow Pronation

Forearm pronation refers to your ability to turn your hand over so your palm faces the floor. This motion is extremely important in performing tasks such as pouring a cup of coffee or playing the piano.

To perform the forearm pronation ROM stretch:

  1. Stand or sit with your elbow bent 90 degrees and tucked in at your side.
  2. Turn your hand and wrist over as far as possible, then reach your other hand over the top of your forearm.
  3. Grab your wrist, and turn your arm further into a pronated position.
  4. Hold the position with overpressure for five to 10 seconds, and then release the stretch.
  5. Repeat the pronation ROM stretch 10 times.


Once you improve your elbow ROM with these exercises, your physical therapist may then prescribe strengthening exercises. These may include hand gripping exercises with a towel, the DigiFlex, or with therapy putty.

You may also start to work on forearm strengthening with a dumbbell, and biceps and triceps strengthening may be required to help strengthen the muscles around your elbow and arm.

A Word From Verywell

Elbow pain can limit your ability to perform basic functional tasks. By working closely with your physical therapist and by performing the right elbow ROM exercises—at the right time—you can be sure to quickly and safely get back to your normal, active lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How often should you do physical therapy exercises for tennis elbow?

    Most exercises for tennis elbow such as forearm supination and elbow extension should be done for 30 repetitions once a day, five to seven times a week. Wrist exercises may be repeated up to four times a day. Depending on your injury, you should continue the exercises for six to 12 weeks.

  • What affects your elbow’s range of motion?

    How far you can move or stretch your elbow (range of motion) can be limited by medical conditions such as burned skin tightening up, muscle shortness, tight tendons or ligaments, bone fractures, spine and nerve disorders, arthritis, or neuromuscular diseases such as cerebral palsy.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Javed M, Mustafa S, Boyle S, Scott F. Elbow pain: a guide to assessment and management in primary care. Br J Gen Pract. 2015;65(640):610-2. doi:10.3399/bjgp15X687625

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  4. Güleçyüz MF, Pietschmann MF, Michalski S, et al. Reference values of flexion and supination in the elbow joint of a cohort without shoulder pathologies. Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:1654796. doi:10.1155/2017/1654796

  5. Kim J, Yim J. Effects of an Exercise Protocol for Improving Handgrip Strength and Walking Speed on Cognitive Function in Patients with Chronic Stroke. Med Sci Monit. 2017;23:5402-5409. doi:10.12659/MSM.904723

  6. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Therapeutic Exercise Program for Epicondylitis.

  7. Mouton LJ. Shoulder and elbow range of motion for the performance of activities of daily living: A systematic review. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice. 2018;34(7):505-528. doi:10.1080/09593985.2017.1422206

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.