It is the most practical approach to hand recovery after stroke as it can be done at home. It is composed of a range of motions focused on one area, the hand, as with other exercises for stroke patients. Meant to retrain the brain, hand exercises should be done several times a day for mastery and to redevelop coordination.
Here are some hand stretching exercises, arranged sequentially, that you might want to try:
- Massage the affected hand with the unaffected hand, beginning with the base of the thumb by the palm, to the tip of the thumb. Repeat for all fingers.
- Stretch each finger of the affected hand with the unaffected hand. You could also move each finger of the affected hand in circular motions with the unaffected hand.
- Close and open the affected hand, beginning one finger at a time until you form a fist and vice versa. Alternate by closing and opening all fingers at the same time to form a fist and vice versa.
- With palms face down on a flat surface, lift thumb and gently return to position. Repeat on all fingers.
- With palms face down again, lift hand while bringing each finger tip slowly gliding towards each other to a close. Reverse action. Repeat 5 times.
- Stretch fingers as far as you can while palm is faced down on flat surface. Hold in position for 5 seconds. Release. Repeat 5 times.
Once you’re done stretching, here are hand activities to practice your grip and enhance flexibility.
- Practice counting with your fingers in sets of 5. From a closed fist, count with the pinky first going to the thumb. Begin the next set of numbers with an open hand. Then close the hand to form a fist beginning with the thumb going to the pinky.
- Form the letters of the alphabet using your hand. Also known as finger spelling, here’s a chart you can follow.
- Crumple pieces of paper. Throw them all in the air as you would with confetti, such that they fall on the table. Pick each crumpled paper and throw into a trash can as you would in basketball.
- Play pickup sticks or pickup objects of various sizes.
- Play with a stress ball.
If you had fun with these activities, you may also want to read the book “Hand Recovery After Stroke: Exercises and Results Measurement”, Smits JG, Smits-Boon for more exercises.
Remember, hand exercises should be started gradually and reinforced regularly. Take your time in doing each exercise. Take care not to overdo it, though. Most of all, have fun with the hand exercises while listening to your favorite music.