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Hand and Finger Exercises for Patients in Stroke Rehabilitation

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Hand and Finger Exercises for Patients in Stroke Rehabilitation
Hand and finger exercises can retrain the brain to use affected limbs following strokes. Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

If you suffer a stroke, hand and finger exercises are a likely part of the regimen back to normal health and function. Several heath agencies and publications note that strokes are a leading cause of long-term disability, and hand and finger exercises help open the road back to recovery.

Stroke Effects on Hands

Stroke victims often lose proper function of at least one hand and fingers, experiencing delays in gripping and releasing ability, according to Science Daily. The symptoms arise from the effects of strokes on fine motor control in the brain, which regulates movement through muscles, the skeleton and neurological messages, the American Heart Association reports. Strokes often cause at least temporary paralysis on one side of the body, including hands and fingers. The side of the body affected by strokes depends on the side of the brain in which strokes occur, with left brain strokes affecting the right side of the body and right brain strokes affecting the left side, according to the Brain Foundation.

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Signficance of Exercise

Hand and finger exercises, movement and physical therapy help stroke victims relearn the use of fine motor skills. In an American Heart Association article, occupational therapist Rondi Blackburn notes a theory that repeated use of the affected side of the body -- including hand and fingers -- opens up new pathways of communication between the brain and the stroke-affected area. Thus, if you suffer a stroke, medical professionals believe repeated exercises involving affected hands and fingers retrain the brain for fine motor movement.

Exercise Types

The American Heart Association notes several types of exercise to retrain or hone fine motor skills, from a list borrowed from stroke survivors. Timed exercises placing pegs in peg boards and then removing them, shooting marbles into a box multiple times each day, exercising fingers with rubber bands and squeezing rubber balls help restore hand and finger function if you suffer a stroke. Exercises that target range of motion, such as repeatedly pushing affected hands and fingers against a pillow or mattress, also help.

Considering Balance in Exercise

Balancing exercise between affected and non-affected hands, fingers and limbs remains important for stroke victims, according to Science Daily. A treatment known as active-passive bilateral therapy pushes the affected and healthy portions of the brain to find balance in restoring fine motor skills, such as opening and closing hands and moving and gripping with fingers. According to Science Daily, strokes upset balance between the two brain hemispheres. If you suffer a stroke, the therapy means performing a task with the hands or fingers of both the affected and non-affected side of your body at the same time, such as gripping a ball in each hand rather than with just your affected hand.

Long-Term Benefits of Exercise

Studies within the the health-care field suggest exercise benefits stroke survivors beyond the potential restoration of hand and finger use, according to the American Heart Association. The studies suggest that exercise benefits survivors psychologically, builds endurance and may stave off future strokes.

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author image Marc Chase
Marc Chase is a veteran investigative newspaper reporter and editor of 12 years. Specializing in computer-assisted reporting, he holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Southern Illinois University and a Master of Arts in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois.
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