If your hands lack strength or you have undergone neurological surgeries like TBI, paralysis, fracture, or stroke, hand therapy exercises can provide the ultimate relief. Hand therapy exercises are also helpful in treating arthritis and other bone-related disorders.
In this article, we will explore 6 essential hand therapy exercises that can help you improve strength. Let’s delve deeper.
1. Wrist, finger, and thumb extension and flexion
Wrist extension and flexion exercises are useful for paralyzed hands to remove stiffness. These exercises help regain movement in the affected hands. Doing wrist extension and flexion slowly helps the patient move their hands like they used to before the stroke.
To do a wrist extension and flexion, extend your hand on the table with your palm facing down. The aim of the exercise is to move your hand up and down so that it’s bending on the wrist. Do this at least 10 times. Now, repeat the same with your palm facing up.
In a finger extension and flexion hand therapy exercise, you place your arm upright, bent at the elbow, on the table. Now, make a fist with your fingers bending inward. Now, open your fingers and thumb as straight as possible. Repeat this exercise a few times.
Similarly, in a thumb extension and flexion, you need to keep your palm open upright, as you do when signaling the number 5 with your fingers. Now, slowly try to move your thumb inside and out to signal the number 4. Continue moving the thumb to regain its movement. This exercise is also known as thumb adduction/abduction.
2. Wrist stretch
Wrist stretch is another important hand therapy exercise essential for lost movement and regaining flexibility in the hands. It also helps avoid the risk of injury in sports players.
To do a wrist stretch, first make a fist. Now, slowly try to bend the wrist backward as best as possible. Hold the position for 10 to 20 seconds and release. Repeat with your wrist bending forward.
Repetition of these exercises daily is the key for patients looking to regain lost movement.
3. Grip strengthening
Grip strengthening exercises are also a crucial part of hand therapy exercises. These exercises help strengthen your fingers to better hold and release objects. A few of the grip-strengthening exercises include:
- Take a stress ball or soft rubber ball and try to hold it by squeezing your fingers inward without using your thumb. Hold the grip and release. Repeat at least five times.
- Place a pen on the table. Try to pick it up with your affected hand and lay it back on the table. Practice this a few times daily to improve your grip-and-releasing strength. This exercise helps strengthen your pinch grip.
- To improve crush grip, towel wringing is also a good grip-strengthening exercise for hand therapy. Take a wet towel and try to wring water out of it by twisting it from both ends. Begin with a small towel and increase difficulty by trying with a large towel.
- Take an elastic rubber band and place it around two fingers. Now, try to open your fingers to stretch the rubber band with your fingers. Repeat this exercise to enhance the strength of your fingers. This is also known as a finger-spread exercise.
4. Rotation and shifting exercises
This hand therapy exercise improves fine motor skills and dexterity skills. To do a rotation exercise, take a pen. Now, try to rotate it in between fingers using the thumb. Start by rotating it between the middle finger and ring finger, slowly twisting it between the ring finger and index finger.
Sliding pen exercise is also a beneficial hand therapy exercise to boost motor skills. In a sliding exercise, first hold one end of the pen between the thumb, index finger, and middle finger. Now, slowly slide the pen forward until you reach the other end of the pen.
Repeat the exercise such that you are now moving from the back end to the front end of the pen.
5. In-hand translation
This is yet another advanced hand therapy exercise useful for stroke patients and even those with arthritis.
In this exercise, you have to gather 10 small objects like an eraser, uncooked beans, coins, etc. Now, practice picking each of them using your fingers. Once you hold them between your fingers, try to collect them and hold them all in your hands instead of laying them back down immediately. Once you have all 10 objects in your palm, try to translate them back one by one (move the object from the fingertip to the palm) while still holding the rest in your palm.
6. Thumb tapping
This is one of the most basic and easy hand therapy exercises that helps with the flexibility of each finger. In this exercise, use your thumb and tap against the tip of each finger slowly at first and then rapidly. This will improve your motor skills and finger strength.
Why Do You Need Hand Therapy?
Hand therapy exercises are useful for many reasons. These exercises form part of physical therapy for arthritis patients, stroke patients, or anyone with hand problems like carpel tunnel syndrome, fractures, wrist pain, tendonitis injuries, repetitive stress injuries, and more.
Benefits of handy therapy for arthritis:
- Reduce joint pain in fingers.
- Enhances hand motion, strength, and agility without alleviating pain.
- Reduce the need for medicines and surgery to a greater extent.
- Helps in improving bone density along with muscle endurance.
Benefits of handy therapy for nerve compression injuries:
Hand therapy exercises have ample benefits for stroke, brain injuries, or other nerve compression injuries. Nerve compression injuries may leave the patient paralyzed with half-body or even full-body pain. Even after successful surgery, the patient is left with minimal to no body movement. This is when physical therapy comes into action and helps the patient slowly regain the lost movement.
Hand therapy exercises for stroke patients are focused on improving:
- Hand, finger, and wrist mobility.
- Wrist, finger, and hand strength.
- Motor skills and coordination are required for both sides of body movements.
Repeating hand therapy exercises has helped many patients return to their normal lives, even after losing some or all of their arm and hand movements.
Stretching, gripping, and releasing hand therapy exercises are essential for increasing hand strength, mobility, and stability. These exercises can be included in any physical therapy session to treat patients with arthritis, stroke, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other related hand disorders. To learn more about hand therapy, contact In Touch NYC Physical Therapy today.