Improving hand strength is often the focus of your occupational therapy. By using Theraputty, dumbbells or functional activities, your OT can teach you a variety of occupational hand exercises to increase your hand grip strength. Because many muscles must be strengthened, your therapist will use a variety of techniques to strengthen individual muscles and work on the building and coordination of large muscle groups. Restored hand strength is vital for the return to longterm, full functional use of your hand.
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Theraputty is widely used by occupational therapists to initiate strengthening of your hand. A variety of putty exists, including those that can have increasing density added to sequentially challenge your hand -- as well as microwavable putty which is warm and pliable initially but as it cools becomes harder to manipulate. Grasping the ball of putty, squeeze the ball until it is somewhat flat, then rotate the ball and squeeze again. Place the ball of putty on the table and using your thumb, index finger and middle finger, pinch the putty repeatedly, rotating the ball on the table to reveal unpinched areas.
Holding a small dumbbell firmly in your hand without dropping it is the first step to improving your grip strength. Once you are able to do this for at least 30 seconds -- without moving your arm -- raise and lower your wrist with the palm facing upward, and then the palm facing downward. Turn your forearm so that you are in the "thumbs up" position and then bend your wrist sideways to elevate and lower your thumb. Finish by returning to the "palms up " position and rotate your wrist clockwise and counterclockwise. Complete each exercise 30 times in each direction, adding weight as tolerated with no increased pain.
A gripper is often used to accelerate the return of hand grip strength. Holding the gripper firmly in the palm of your hand with your thumb wrapped around one side, squeeze the gripper slowly, squeezing as tight as you can. Move a stack of cones one at a time to strengthen the smaller muscles in your hands and help improve coordination. Grasp a clothespin to place it on a clothesline or yard stick and then remove it to work on two areas of hand strength.
As your hands become stronger, your therapist may use many different functional tasks to further increase your hand grip strength. Rolling out dough with a rolling pin will improve your strength, as well as making cookie dough balls. Sorting, washing and folding a load of laundry may also be a functional task used.