To increase strength and dexterity in your hands after stroke, hand therapy ball exercises are a great, affordable option.
Hand exercise balls are simple and extremely versatile, which makes it easy to practice a wide range of effective exercises to strengthen the hands.
This article will share 8 hand therapy ball exercises to improve fine motor skills after stroke.
Effective Hand Therapy Ball Exercises
The most effective way to promote hand recovery after stroke is through high-repetition practice. Consistently practicing these 8 hand therapy ball exercises will help stimulate the brain and promote its ability to rewire itself (neuroplasticity).
Start with a set of 10 repetitions of each exercise, then build up your strength to aim for 2-3 sets of 10. As long as these exercises do not cause you pain, you can even try to do them a few times a day!
1. Power Grip
This hand therapy ball exercise will help strengthen your grip so that it is easier to grab objects, pick them up, and release them. Grasping the ball will target the flexor muscles to improve strength for picking objects up. It will also be important to practice releasing the ball, which will target the extensor muscles that allow you to let items go from your hand. This exercise also helps relieve joint pain, stress, and anxiety.
Squeeze the therapy ball with your fingers and thumb, as if making a fist. Squeeze, then release the ball completely, opening your fingers as wide as you can.
For this exercise, pinch the hand therapy ball with your fingers and thumb extended. And by extended, we mean keep all your fingers straight. This will help strengthen different muscles than the ones targeted by curled fingers.
To make this hand therapy ball exercise more challenging, pinch the ball for a greater amount of time.
3. Thumb Flexion & Extension
The thumb plays an essential role in various hand functions including pinching and grasping, so it’s essential to strengthen its muscles to improve control.
With your palm flat (as flat as you can), place the therapy ball on your palm and use your thumb to keep it in place.
Then, use your thumb to roll the ball up and down your palm. This movement really isolates your thumb.
4. Table Roll
Place the hand therapy ball on a table and place your hand on top of it.
Then, while keeping a flat hand, roll the ball from the base of your palm up to your fingertips.
Placing too much or not enough pressure will make the ball difficult to maneuver. Therefore, this hand therapy ball exercise will help individuals practice adjusting and sustaining a certain amount of pressure on the ball.
5. Finger Flexion
Unlike the Power Grip exercise, you won’t be using your thumb in this hand therapy ball exercise.
Instead, hold the therapy ball in your palm and press into it using all your fingers except your thumb. Press and release.
Notice how much more challenging it is to squeeze the ball without using your thumb. This will help strengthen the muscles that allow you to bend your fingers.
6. Thumb Roll
This hand therapy exercise isolates your thumb and encourages you to move it through its entire range of motion. As a result, it will help prevent stiffness and improve control.
Place the therapy ball on your palm. Keep your palm as flat as you can and use your thumb to keep it in place. Then, use your thumb to roll the ball in a circle on your palm.
7. Finger Squeeze
This hand therapy ball exercise will help individuals strengthen their finger adduction muscles. These are the muscles that allow you to bring the fingers together, which play a key role in grasping objects.
Place the therapy ball between two fingers and squeeze your fingers together. Squeeze and release. You can do this between any combinations of fingers, so be sure to exercise all your fingers!
Some fingers will be more difficult than others (like your ring and pinky finger), so be sure not to neglect them.
8. Thumb Opposition
This therapy ball exercise is similar to the Thumb Roll, but you will be rolling the ball side-to-side instead of in circles.
Start by placing the therapy ball on your palm and use your thumb to keep it in place. Then, use your thumb to move the ball from left to right.
Benefits of Hand Therapy Ball Exercises
It’s important to cater your hand therapy exercises to suit your recovery goals.
For example, some people may need these exercises to strengthen their hands, especially those that enjoy handiwork. If that’s you, then focus on using therapy balls with more resistance so that you can build strength in your hands and fingers.
Other people might use these exercises to regain mobility in their hands, including stroke survivors.
When neurological injury is involved, the focus should not be placed solely on trying to increase resistance. Instead, the focus should be placed on repetition, which provides the brain with the stimulation it needs to rewire itself.