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Effective Grasp and Release Activities for Stroke Recovery

therapist helping patient with grasp and release activities stroke

Grasp and release activities after stroke can help develop fine motor skills, which are often the slowest function to return after stroke.

Proper hand function is essential for performing activities of daily living like grooming and eating on your own.

To help with this, you’re about to discover some of the best grasp and release activities for stroke recovery.

The Best Grasp and Release Activities for Stroke Recovery

These grasp and release activities will help keep you engaged so that it’s easy to perform the repetitions you need to improve hand function after stroke:

1. Stringing Beads

pile of pony beads for grasp and release activities stroke

Stringing beads is a simple activity that encourages stroke survivors get creative and practice developing their fine motor skills. Make sure that you’re pulling the bead all the way through to the end of the string.

 If picking up tiny objects is still too difficult, start with larger beads and then progress to smaller ones.

2. Picking Up Items with Tongs

©iStock.com/1827photography

Lay out an assortment of items in different sizes and textures. Then, try to pick them up with a pair of tongs and arrange them in a row from smallest to biggest. The spring in the tongs provides some resistance as you try to clench your hand, and the activity helps develop hand-eye coordination

3. MusicGlove Hand Therapy

MusicGlove hand therapy interactive grasp and release activity for stroke

MusicGlove combines hand therapy, music, and gaming together for the ultimate hand rehabilitation experience. Users demonstrated “a significantly greater improvement in hand grasping ability,” according to this study.

MusicGlove encourages you to pinch your fingers together by matching the keys on the screen along to music. It has multiple difficulty levels so that you are challenged at all stages of recovery, and it tracks your progress.

Through each 30-minute session, stroke survivors can perform hundreds of finger-gripping movements.  

4. Therapy Putty

Therapy putty is an extremely versatile hand therapy product. You can mold it into any shape and squeeze it between your fingers or your entire hand. Therapy putty comes in a variety of different resistances to help you improve your grasping skills at any level of recovery.

See more hand therapy putty exercises »

5. Popping Bubble Wrap

popping bubble wrap grasp and release activities for stroke recovery

©iStock.com/artursfoto

Just like MusicGlove, popping bubble wrap practices developing pincer grasp. Press your fingertips together to pop each bubble one at a time. You can also try to pop the bubbles by clenching your hand.

6. Alphabet Magnets

alphabet magnet gripping exercise for stroke survivors

©iStock.com/Ralf Geithe

Get a set of alphabet magnets and practice spelling out words and creating sentences on your refrigerator. The attraction between the magnet and the refrigerator surface forces you to grip onto the magnet to pull it off. This activity will also develop hand-eye coordination by making you practice accurate spacing and placement.

7. Sorting Candy

sorting candy grasp and release activities after stroke

Grab a bag of your favorite colorful candy (like Skittles or M&Ms) and separate them by color. Larger pieces of candy (like peach rings) will be easier to grab, so it might be a good idea to start off big and transition into smaller pieces of candy as your grasping skills improve.

How Grasp and Release Activities for Stroke Recovery Work

It’s important to understand that recovery after stroke is possible as long as you trust in the process and continue to work at it. Controlling your affected hand after stroke can be frustrating and discouraging, but don’t give up!

Repetition helps create and strengthen new neural pathways in the brain. The more you practice, the more natural your movements become.

The 7 grasp and release activities mentioned in this article will help you perform the repetitions necessary to improve hand functions after stroke. Hopefully, you give them a try.

Featured image: ©iStock.com/byryo

Keep It Going: Download a Free PDF Hand Therapy Exercise Guide!

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Get inspired with this hand recovery story!

“My husband had a torn aorta and underwent emergency open heart surgery, then there were multiple complications and he was on life support for 10 days.

After 10 weeks in the hospital, he is expected to make a full recovery. The biggest hurtle to his recovery has been his left hand, between the muscle atrophy and brain trauma, he had very little control of it.

As a professional musician, being unable to even hold a guitar was hard, to say the least. Despite weeks of PT & OT, his hand function had barely improved.

We ordered the MusicGlove and received it in 2 days. He began using it right away. He spent over an hour with it the first day. That is what makes it work so well, it’s way more interesting and rewarding than trying to pick up a peg.

In OT, he struggled to do any of the exercises, and the at-home exercises were mainly strengthening.

After only a few days with the Music Glove, he was able to pick up and hold his guitar. and after 3 weeks, he can play 3 chords.

The MusicGlove and program are engaging. He uses it daily for an hour – and he wants to do it. His 1st time using it, I could barely get it on, his hand was moving so much; his accuracy was about 30% and he had difficulty even doing some of the fingers.

Now, after only a few weeks, his uncontrolled motion is about 60% better, I can easily & quickly get the glove on, his accuracy is over 90% – on all fingers, and he now can do multiple fingers. I would highly recommend this product.”

– Jill’s MusicGlove review

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