What Are the Different Hand Therapy Exercises?

Sandra Koehler

The hand is a complex collection of bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles and nerves that actually encompasses the area from the wrist to the fingers. Due to its intricate yet fragile design and its multi-faceted abilities for movement, the hands can easily sustain injury or be susceptible to medical disorders that affect its ability to move appropriately. Hand therapy exercises are specific movements intended to rehabilitate or recover normal, pain-free hand movements, and can include things like motions to stretch and strengthen weak muscles, picking up small objects to improve dexterity, and hand and wrist stretches to increase flexibility.

A model of a human hand.
A model of a human hand.

The carpals or bones of the wrist are actually located in the hand. This gives the hand the ability to change locations through movements of the wrist up and down, side-to-side and rotationally which adjusts the hand to move the palm face up or face down. In order to rehabilitate the hand successfully, hand therapy exercises should include movements of the wrist as well as the fingers. For example, dysfunction in the wrist can affect the ability of the hand shift positions. Since the wrist merges right into the hand, wrist problems can also change the way the fingers move.

Hand exercisers.
Hand exercisers.

The fingers have the ability to open and close the hand, and to move the fingers either in unison or individually. When the hand loses its ability to function properly things like the ability to grip or hold onto objects. Fine motor skills such as having the ability to write or use utensils, can also be limited or even nonexistent. Hand therapy exercises can help stretch tightened areas, strengthen weak muscles and restore the precise movements of the fingers.

Hand therapy helps restore strength and flexibility in the hands and wrists.
Hand therapy helps restore strength and flexibility in the hands and wrists.

Since the wrist is an intricate part of the hands abilities, hand therapy exercises typically begin with restoring the flexibility and strength of the wrist. This is performed by stretching of the wrist by flexing the wrist downwards so the fingers point towards the floor, and extending it so the fingers point up to the sky. Additional wrist stretching includes the small side-to-side movements and rotational aspects by moving the palm up and down. Once the flexibility is restored, these same motions can be used with or without weights to restore muscle strength.

Hand therapy exercises must also incorporate the precise movements of the fingers. Since humans have opposable thumbs, we have the ability to touch each finger to the thumb. This movement allows for people to have the ability to hold onto objects and perform small but intricate changes in the location of the fingers necessary to execute fine motor skills. This is accomplished by running the fingers both as a unit and individually through the available range of motions including opening the fingers and flexing the fingers into a fist.

Hand therapy exercises may be necessary following a severe hand injury.
Hand therapy exercises may be necessary following a severe hand injury.

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Discussion Comments


@raynbow- Another good object to use for hand exercises is a rolled up towel. You can choose the size that works for you, and use it to squeeze to strengthen your hand muscles.


@raynbow- A ball is a simple object that makes exercising your hands quite easy. They are affordable, readily available, and quite squeezable.

When looking for a ball to use for your hand exercise regimen, you should try different types to get the right one for you. A toy store is a good place to look. You can also find a wide variety of balls at a sports supply store, though most of the types sold there may be too hard for hand exercises.

You will want a ball that fits nicely in the palm of your hand without being too big or too small. You will also need to select one that has just the right amount of tension for your hand exercise goals. This will be easy to do, because balls are available made of a wide range of materials, from squishy foam to hard rubber. You may even want to buy several types of balls of different textures and firmness. This will allow you to be able to graduate to one with more tension as you reach your hand exercise goals with a softer ball.


Does anyone have any suggestions for objects to use for doing squeezing hand exercises? I use to use a hand exerciser, but I have found that it has too much tension to get the results I want. I need something that is easier to squeeze yet still works out my hand muscles.

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