The BEST way to improve hand function after stroke is with hand therapy exercises.
But you can’t just do any ol’ exercises willy nilly.
Instead, you need a strategy.
You need a specific step-by-step method that will make sure you’re reaping the most benefit from your hand therapy exercises.
And today, we’re going to give you that strategy by outlining the 4 pillars of effective rehabilitation.
Get ready to take your hand recovery to the next level.
Pillar #4: Consistency
As you perform your hand therapy exercises, you will start to spark neuroplasticity in your brain. Neuroplasticity is the mechanism that your brain uses to rewire itself and learn new skills.
Although moving your hand isn’t really a new skill to you – your brain is relearning the skill as if it’s the first time.
And in order for neuroplasticity to work the best, you need to do your hand therapy exercises consistently.
If you only exercise your hand once a week, you won’t see very good results. Or if you exercise your hand for 5 days in a row but then go 3 weeks without doing anything, then you won’t see very good results, either.
Your brain needs constant stimulation and reinforcement while it rewires itself. By doing your hand therapy exercises consistently – which means every day or every other day for most people – you regain movement in your hand faster.
Pillar #3: Feedback
When you do your hand exercises, there should be very clear cues that you’re doing the exercise right or wrong. Doing something willy nilly, as we enjoy saying, without proper feedback won’t give your brain the signals that it needs to rewire itself properly.
And that’s what feedback is: a signal that let’s your brain know if you’re doing something right or wrong.
An example of clear feedback is MusicGlove, our music- and gaming-based hand therapy device. Each time you correctly make a pinching movement, MusicGlove tells you “good,” “excellent,” or “poor.” This clear feedback let’s your brain know when it’s doing a hand movement correctly, which helps your brain rewire itself faster.
Examples of poor feedback is wiggling your fingers around randomly. Because there is no organization or feedback to what you’re doing, your brain won’t reap much benefit from the exercise.
So whatever you do, make sure that there’s very clear feedback.
Pillar #2: Meaningfulness
When rehab is meaningful to you, you’re much more likely to participate. So don’t settle for a regimen that you find boring, otherwise it will be very hard to build up the willpower to do it.
You don’t need to waste willpower (because willpower is a limited resource) on getting yourself to do therapy if your therapy is already something that you love!
So, what kinds of activities do you enjoy doing in your free time? For example, were you an avid gardener? Maybe a gamer? Or perhaps a budding musician?
Then you can greatly benefit from finding forms of rehabilitation therapy that revolve around gardening, gaming, or music-playing.
Whatever you love doing, try to find forms of therapy that are similar. You will see a big boost in your motivation and progress because of it.
Pillar #1: Repetition
If you’ve been a long-time reader of this blog, then you already know where we’re going with this:
Repetition is the most important key to effective rehabilitation.
That’s why MusicGlove is such a great tool for improving hand function. It helps you fit hundreds – sometimes even thousands – of repetitions into a single session. And this intense amount of repetition helps your brain heal fast.
Because each time you repeat a hand movement, you send stimulation to your brain and you start to trigger neuroplasticity. The more you repeat the movement, the more your brain will start to rewire itself and the better you will get at moving your hand.
Repetition is rocket fuel for recovery. Get this first pillar in gear and you’re already in great shape.
And if you incorporate all 4 pillars into your regimen by combining repetition with consistency and feedback in a meaningful way, then you have the BEST recipe for hand improvement success.