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Thera-putty Hand Exercises

author image Aubrey Bailey
Aubrey Bailey has been writing health-related articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in ADVANCE for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy and Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University at Buffalo, as well as a post-professional Doctor of Physical Therapy from Utica College. Dr. Bailey is also a certified hand therapist.
Thera-putty Hand Exercises
Your therapist may increase the resistance of your Theraputty as your strength improves. Photo Credit: Meinzahn/iStock/Getty Images

Theraputty is a silicone material that can be used for a variety of hand exercises. This material is available in color-coded, graded levels of resistance. Theraputty exercises are commonly prescribed by physical and occupational therapists as part of a strengthening program. Follow your therapist's instructions closely, as performing these exercises incorrectly or using putty that is too difficult for you may cause injury.

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Grip Strengthening

Grip strengthening exercises are often performed with Theraputty. The two types of grip are full fist and hook fist. To strengthen a full fist grip, your therapist may have you place the putty in the center of your palm, then bend your fingers as far as possible against the resistance of the putty. This movement is important for gripping objects such as a hammer. Hook fist -- bending just the knuckles in your fingers while keeping the large knuckles at the base of your fingers straight -- is used for activities such as carrying a briefcase by its handle. Strengthening exercises for a hook fist may also be included in your therapy program.

Finger Strengthening

Theraputty exercises strengthen multiple finger muscles. This material can be squeezed together, pulled apart and looped over and around fingers to address any weaknesses your therapist may identify in your fingers. As your strength improves, your therapist may progress you to the next level of Theraputty resistance.

Thumb Strengthening

Thumb strengthening exercises can be performed with Theraputty. For example, your therapist may instruct you to pinch putty between your thumb and index finger if you have difficulty zipping and or buttoning clothing. Thumb abduction -- the movement needed to pick up your coffee cup -- can be also be strengthened with Theraputty. Your therapist may also instruct you to press your thumb down into putty held in your palm to improve your ability to turn your car key. Theraputty exercises in a hitch-hiking motion may be prescribed to strengthen muscles used to cut with scissors.

Fine Motor Skills

Theraputty is often used to improve fine motor skills. Your therapist may press small beads or coins into the putty, then ask you to pick them out to improve your dexterity. Your therapy program may also include molding Theraputty into various objects to improve your fine motor skills.

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