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Occupational Therapy Exercises for Fine Motor Control

by
author image Linda Ray
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."
Occupational Therapy Exercises for Fine Motor Control
A close-up of a man's hand who is shooting marbles. Photo Credit KenTannenbaum/iStock/Getty Images

Overview

The coordination of the skeletal, muscular and neurological body functions combine to perform fine motor skills. Fine motor control is the ability to make small, precise movements, such as picking up a tiny object with your thumb and index finger. Damage to the brain, nerves, muscles or joints can impair fine motor control, according to the National Institutes of Health. Therapeutic exercises can help to improve damaged fine motor control functions.

Forced Use

Patients who have lost the use of their fingers, hands or arms and have difficulty with fine motor skills often give up when they fail. It is too hard to do the task and so they find work-arounds and different ways of performing daily tasks. The Stroke Association reports that constraint-induced movement therapy is an effective exercise for loss of fine motor control. The working limbs are restrained during the practice to force the patient to make the muscles and nerves respond and do the tasks. For example, if you've lost the use of your right hand because of injury or illness, you may revert to using your left hand. During constraint-induced movement therapy, or CIMT, your left hand is tied to your side, leaving you to rely on your impaired limb for all your fine motor skills. The exercises may be used for long periods of time, up to six hours a day, while you build up your strength.

Timing

Setting a timer while you try to improve fine motor control performance can prove helpful, reports the Stroke Association. Choose a task such as inserting pegs in holes. Start a timer and fill all the holes. Repeat the exercise every day, aiming for faster times each day until you reach your optimum ability.

Shooting Marbles

While the nerves or muscles in your fingers may have received the direct damage, eye/hand coordination also suffers when fine motor skill use has been interrupted. Set up a marble game and play it for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day. To shoot marbles, set up a small box on its side either on a table or on a carpet on the floor. Hold a marble in the crook of your index finger and with your thumb, shoot it toward the box, trying to get it inside. Start close to the box while your coordination improves. Move the box further away as you develop more accuracy.

Range of Motion Finger Exercises

Strength, endurance and coordination need direct focus to improve fine motor skills. Range of motion is another ability that must receive direct exercise as well. To work on flexibility and range of motion, place small rubber bands over two fingers and stretch them apart with the fingers. Move your fingers side to side, back and forth and in circular motions. Fan your fingers out and them make a fist. Concentrate on one finger at a time and make small circles with it. Move through your fingers one at a time making small circles, enlarging the circle as you progress.

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