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37 Hand Therapy Exercises to Improve Strength and Dexterity

hands squeezing stress ball for hand therapy exercises

Hand therapy exercises can help improve fine motor skills, especially after a neurological event like stroke.

Furthermore, hand strengthening exercises like these can also help prevent conditions like arthritis from getting worse.

If you want some effective physical and occupational therapy exercises for your hands, read on!

Stretching Exercises for Extremely Stiff or Paralyzed Hands

For those with paralyzed hands from neurological injury like stroke, you should start with passive exercise.

This means using your unaffected hand to help your affected hand complete the physical therapy exercises.

Not only will this will help prevent muscle stiffness, but it can also help introduce movement into your affected hand.

For those who do have some hand mobility, you can practice these hand therapy exercises actively (meaning no assistance from your unaffected hand) as a good warm-up activity.

Bonus: Download our free Stroke Rehab Exercises ebook. (Link will open a pop-up that will not interrupt your reading.)

1. Wrist Extension and Flexion

hand therapy exercises after stroke wrist flexion extension

With your forearm on a table, let your hand hang off the side of the table with your palm down. Then, move your hand up and down, bending at your wrist. When you’re done, repeat with your palm facing up.

2. Thumb Extension and Flexion

hand therapy exercises thumb extension flexion

Start with your palm open, as if you were signaling the number 5. Then, practice moving your thumb over to your pinky side, as if you were signaling the number 4. Continue to move your thumb back and forth between these 2 positions.

Start with your palm open, as if you were signaling the number 5. Then, practice moving your thumb over to your pinky side, as if you were signaling the number 4. Continue to move your thumb back and forth between these 2 positions.

3. Inner Arm Stretch

Place your hands in your lap and interlace your fingers. Then stretch your affected arm palm-side up. You should feel this stretch all the way up your inner arm. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds and release. Then, repeat on the other side.

4. Wrist Stretch

With your fingers still interlaced, gently bend your affected wrist backward and get a nice stretch there. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds and release. Repeat on the other side.

Easy At-Home Hand Therapy Exercises

For those with some hand movement, try these simple tasks that involve common household items.

These are great for hand strengthening occupational therapy at home.

5. Stacking Coins

Grab a handful of loose change and practice stacking coins on top of each other. This will help improve your fine motor skills.

6. Pinching Clothespins with Each Finger

Take a clothespin and practice pinching it with different fingers. Start with your thumb and index finger, then move onto your thumb and middle finger, ring finger, then pinky.

7. Playing Board Games

If you want to make things more fun, try playing board games like checkers or chess which require you to practice your fine motor skills as you move your pieces.

8. Putting Together a Puzzle

A great hand therapy exercise that also works your cognitive skills!

9. Playing a Virtual Piano App

Getting back to playing instruments is a more advanced hand therapy exercise. To work your way up there, try downloading a virtual piano- or guitar-playing app and practice on your phone.

Physical Therapy Hand Exercises

And now it’s time to meet Barbara, our favorite physical therapist.

Try her expert hand therapy exercises in this video or by following the written instruction below:

10. Palm Up and Down

Place your hand palm-up on a table. Then use your non-affected hand to flip your hand palm-down. Repeat 10 times.

11. Wrist Bend Movement

Gently bend your wrist back and forth while supporting your arm on the table. Repeat 10 back-and-forth movements.

12. Wrist Side Movement

Place your affected hand palm-down on the table and use your other hand to bend your wrist side-to-side.

13. Rolling Movement

Grab a water bottle or soup can and place it into your affected hand with your palm-side up on a table. Then, practice curling your fingers in to grasp the bottle or can, and then relax. Repeat 10 times.

14. Wrist Curl

Take the same object and hold it in your affected hand. Then, practice bending your wrist up and down.

15. Grip And Release

Take a pen and place it on a table. Then, practice gripping the pen with your affected hand and move it across the table. Release, and repeat by bringing the pen back to the other side of the table.

16. Pen Spin

Take the same pen and practice spinning it with your thumb and index finger.

17. Coin Drop

Place 8 coins neatly in a row in your hand. Then, practice placing them down one by one while keeping the other coins in your hand with your other fingers.

18. Finger Curl

Practice touching your thumb to each of your fingertips, starting with your index finger and moving down toward your pinky.

This is the same movement used in MusicGlove hand therapy, which has helped many stroke patients improve hand function.

Hand Therapy Ball Exercises

Hand therapy ball exercises are the cheapest tools you can use to regain hand movement after stroke. (Aside from stacking pennies, of course.)

Try using a soft one if you’re still developing hand coordination and dexterity, and use something more firm if you’re focusing on hand strength.

Hand therapy balls usually come in different thicknesses so that you can keep yourself consistently challenged.


19. Power Grip

Squeeze the hand therapy ball with your fingers and thumb. Focus on pressing the pads and tips of your fingers into the ball.

20. Pinch

Pinch the ball with fingers and thumb extended. Press your fingers down into the top of the ball and your thumb upward on the bottom of the ball.

21. Thumb Extension

Roll the ball up and down your palm by flexing (making your thumb bent) and extending (making your thumb straight). This will move the ball up and down your hand in a somewhat straight motion.

22. Table Roll

Roll the ball from the tip of your fingers to your palm.

23. Finger Flexion

Hold the ball in your palm and press your fingers into the ball. This is different from the power grip above because you’re focusing on an inward movement instead of a global gripping movement. Imagine that you’re pressing your fingers straight into your palm.

24. Thumb Roll

Use your thumb to roll the ball in a circular motion on your palm.

25. Finger Squeeze

Squeeze the ball between two fingers – any two fingers you please.

26. Thumb Opposition

Roll the ball side to side on your palm using your thumb.

Hand Therapy Putty Exercises

If you’re looking for something more creative than therapy balls, then hand therapy putty exercises are just the thing you need.

hand therapy putty exercises

27. Finger Scissors

Squeeze the putty between your fingers

28. Fingertip Pinch

Pinch the putty using your thumb and fingertips

29. Power Grip

Squeeze all your fingers into the putty

30. Flat Pinch

Pinch the putty down into your thumb with straightened fingers

31. Finger Spread

Wrap the putty around two fingers and spread your fingers apart

32. Finger Extension

Wrap the putty around a hooked finger and then straighten your finger using the putty as resistance

33. Finger Spread

Wrap the putty around your hand and then spread your fingers out to stretch the putty

34. Full Grip

Squeeze down on the putty, pressing your fingers into your palm

Advanced Hand Therapy Exercises

Once you’ve mastered the complex hand manipulation exercise, you’ll be ready to work on performing rotation and shift exercises.

35. Rotation Hand Therapy Exercise

Take a pen, and try rotating it around your middle finger, using your thumb, index, and ring finger to help you manipulate the pen. Think about twirling the pen around your fingers.

36. Shifting Hand Therapy Exercise

Then, practice a shifting movement by holding the pen in a writing position (in between your thumb, index, and middle finger) and shifting the pen forward until you’re holding the end of the pen.

Then, shift the pen back until you’re holding the tip once again. Think about inching your fingers along the pen.

37. Complex Holding Hand Exercise

Gather 10 small objects (like uncooked beans) and practice picking them up with your fingers. But instead of immediately setting them down, try holding all of the objects in your palm while you continue to pick the rest up. Then, once all the objects are in your hand, practice putting them down one by one.

38. MusicGlove Hand Therapy

hand exercise equipment

For a structured, proven approach, try MusicGlove. It helps stroke patients achieve high repetition of hand exercises, which helps rewire the brain so that you see results faster.

And that concludes our hand therapy exercises! We hope you find them useful on your road to recovery.

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See how Steve is recovering from post-stroke paralysis

“My husband had a massive stroke in Feb 2018. He was released from the hospital in April 2018, however after he left the hospital he was unable to get therapy for over a year.

In August 2019 we purchased the FitMi, because his right side is paralyzed quite often he must use both hands and feet to do the suggested exercises… and the most amazing thing is… He IS making progress.

The doctors are astonished because he is now able to move his his right leg, foot and toes. As well as his arm and wrist. His wrist had spasticity. Very bad but the program is truly helpful.

I am so happy with this purchase. It’s working! Still a long way to go but Steve is making improvements!”

FitMi is our best-selling home therapy tool because it helps patients see REAL results, just like Steve.

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