To maintain and improve hand functionality exercises for the hands are important in rehabilitation following injuries and illnesses.
- The hand and wrist have multiple bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments that are susceptible to the same injuries as the other parts of your body.
- Hands are in constant motion whether at work or recreation. Often (especially with age) they can become sore, stiff and ache, due to eg over usage, injuries, or specific conditions eg arthritis.
- Exercises can help hands stay healthy and strong, and may even help mitigate the effects of repetitive motions such as typing or arthritis.
- Hand and wrist exercises help to gradually improve the strength and movement of the hand and wrist following an illness or injury.
- There are a myriad of exercises to choose from and all need be specifically chosen for clients.ie a progressive tailored rehabilitation programme. Below are some ideas you can incorporate into rehabilitation.
- Forearm on a table, hand hangs off the side of the table palm down.
Then, move hand up and down, bending at your wrist. Repeat with your palm facing up.
- Thumb Extension and Flexion Start with palm open.
Then, practice moving thumb over to your 5th digit. Continue to move thumb back and forth between these 2 positions.
- Palm Up and Down
Then flip your hand palm-down. Repeat 10 times.
- Wrist Bend Movement
Gently bend the wrist back and forth while supporting arm on the table. Repeat 10 back-and-forth movements.
- Wrist Side Movement
Place affected hand palm-down on the table then bend the wrist side-to-side.
- Rolling Movement
Using eg a water bottle or soup can, place it into the affected hand with your palm-side up on a table. Then, practice curling your fingers in to grasp the bottle or can, and then relax. Repeat 10 times.
- Wrist Curl
Take the same object and hold it in the affected hand. Then, practice flexing and extending the wrist.
Easy Hand Therapy Exercises
These are great for hand strengthening exercises
- Stacking Coins
Using loose change practice stacking coins on top of each other. This will help improve fine motor skills.
- Pinching Clothes pegs with Each Finger
Take a clothes peg and practice pinching it with different fingers. Start with thumb and index finger, then move onto thumb and middle finger, ring finger, then 5th digit.
- Playing Board Games
If you want to make things more fun, add playing board games like checkers or chess which require practice of fine motor skills.
- Putting Together a Puzzle
A great hand therapy exercise that also works cognitive skills.
- Playing a Virtual Piano App
Getting back to playing instruments is a more advanced hand therapy exercise. To work your way up there, try downloading a virtual piano- or guitar-playing app and practice on your phone. See eg https://www.onlinepianist.com/virtual-piano
- Grip And Release
Take a pen and place it on a table. Then, practice gripping the pen with affected hand and move it across the table. Release, and repeat by bringing the pen back to the other side of the table.
- Pen Spin
Take the same pen and practice spinning it with your thumb and index finger.
- Finger Curl
Practice touching your thumb to each of your fingertips, starting with your index finger and moving down toward your pinky.
Hand Therapy Ball Exercises Guide
- Power Grip
Squeeze the hand therapy ball with fingers and thumb. Focus on pressing the pads and tips of your fingers into the ball.
Pinch the ball with fingers and thumb extended. Press your fingers down into the top of the ball and your thumb upward on the bottom of the ball.
- Thumb Extension
Roll the ball up and down palm by flexing and extending. This will move the ball up and down the hand.
- Table Roll
Roll the ball from the tip of your fingers to your palm.
- Finger Flexion
Hold the ball in palm and press your fingers into the ball. This is different from the power grip above because you’re focusing on an inward movement instead of a global gripping movement. Imagine pressing your fingers straight into your palm.
- Thumb Roll
Use your thumb to roll the ball in a circular motion on the palm.
- Finger Squeeze
Squeeze the ball between two fingers – any two fingers you please.
- Thumb Opposition Roll the ball side to side on your palm using your thumb.
Hand Therapy Putty Exercises
- Finger Scissors
Squeeze the putty between fingers
- Fingertip Pinch
Pinch the putty using thumb and fingertips
- Power Grip
Squeeze all fingers into the putty
Pinch the putty down into thumb with straightened fingers
- Finger Spread
Wrap the putty around two fingers and spread fingers apart
- Finger Extension
Wrap the putty around a hooked finger and then straighten your finger using the putty as resistance
- Full Grip
Squeeze down on the putty, pressing your fingers into your palm
Flex bars are another good strengthening tool.
Twist and bend exercises
- From a supinated position bend Twist and Bend into a U shape
- From a pronated position bend it into an N shape
- Wobble Twist and Bend forward/back, side to side, round and round in operated hand. These exercises are useful to train proprioception and stability of the wrist if there are ligament issues
- Move hammer down into pronation. Use the weighted end of hammer to help the action
- Move hammer down into supination
- Dart motion with hammer
Power web for grip strengthening
- Flex hand
- Pull to side (for intrinsics)
- Weight bear on an extended wrist on the web
See also Colles' Fracture Post Operative Rehabilitation Programme from Week 6 for great ideas for hand and wrist strengthening.
- Flint Therapy 37 Hand Therapy Exercises to Improve Strength and Dexterity Available from:https://www.flintrehab.com/2018/hand-therapy-exercises/ (last accessed 28.3.2020)
- Thorn, K. Introduction to distal radius fracture [VIMEO]. Queensland: Physiopedia, 2019.