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23 Practical Hand Exercises for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery

Hand Exercises for Spinal Cord Injury

Looking for hand exercises for spinal cord injury recovery? Below is a list of 23 practical hand exercises to improve hand function after a spinal cord injury.

These exercises are everyday actions that increase the development of hand and wrist movements.

Let’s get started!

Artsy Hand Exercises for Spinal Cord Injury

1. Sculpting clay/ Play-Doh

Using your hands to sculpt an object is a great way to develop hand muscles after spinal cord injury
Sculpting is one of the most dynamic hand exercises for spinal cord injury because it activates functional hand movements

You can push and stretch the clay however you want to mold it.

The tougher the clay, the more resistance and strength you can develop.

2. Painting

Painting is a great hand exercise for spinal cord injury recovery because of the dynamic movements.

You practice hand control with long, fluid strokes and repetitive short strokes.

3. Tracing

Find a picture of something interesting and practice tracing the figure.

This motion builds precision and because it requires a lot of focus, helps improve the mind/body connection.

4. Playing music on a piano

This uses the same concepts as typing on a computer keyboard.

However, if you’re more musically inclined, this may be more enjoyable.

5. Braiding

Braiding hair is one of the best hand exercises for spinal cord injury because it requires you to hold certain positions and use your fingers to weave the hair repeatedly.
Braiding, whether it be with hair or several pieces of string, is an intricate process that requires a lot of control over your fingers.

The repetitive motions of folding each strand over while holding others in place help build endurance as well as in-hand manipulation skills.

6. Stringing beads

Start with beads with larger holes and then advance to ones with smaller holes to develop precision and fine motor skills.

7. Using scissors

Cutting different shapes with scissors is a great exercise for all the muscles in your hand and wrist.

The more complex the shape, the more rotations you’ll get out of your wrist.

Hand Exercise Games for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery

8. MusicGlove

MusicGlove hand therapy interactive game

MusicGlove is a hand therapy tool that won’t feel like exercise because of the enjoyment and challenge provided by following the music.

It develops finger dexterity by engaging in a musical game.

There are many songs to choose from to challenge any level of recovery.

9. Jenga

Jenga is great for developing hand muscles because not only do you need to carefully remove your block, but you also have to carefully balance it on top of the stack. This action develops stability and fine motor control.

10. Popping bubbles

Popping bubbles adds an element of speed because you need to pop them before they hit another surface.

11. Yoyoing

Playing with a yoyo can help develop wrist flexibility.

12. Cat’s cradle

Cats cradle is one of the best hand exercises for spinal cord injury because it requires you to use all your fingers and hold various positions.
Did you play this game as a kid? It requires you to move your hands and wrists in a variety of different positions which helps you develop range.

Hand Exercises Using Daily Tasks

13. Pouring water from one cup to another

The weight of the water will help add some resistance while you practice twisting your wrist.

14. Turning doorknobs

Turning doorknobs is a great way to practice twisting your wrist.

To bring the focus more on your fingers, turn the lock instead of the doorknob.

15. Flipping light switches

Try flipping a light switch on and off with each finger.

This develops motor control and strength in all your fingers.

16. Sorting Skittles/M&Ms by color

Sorting your favorite candy by color is a great way to develop hand motions after paralysis,
Now you have an excuse to buy your favorite candy!

Separating them one by one requires bending your wrist as you grip small items with your fingers.

17. Wringing out a wet towel

Wringing out a towel requires a lot of strength.

If this is too difficult, try squeezing a wet sponge with one hand.

18. Typing sentences on a keyboard

This is a great way to put all your fingers to use while developing dexterity and speed.

19. Using utensils

Developing this hand function is a basic skill. When we do things that are familiar, the motions become easier.

It teaches you how to hold the utensil in your hand and activate wrist movements.

20. Popping bubble wrap

The squeezing motion needed to pop the bubbles add resistance, which will help you build strength in your fingers. Use of the thumb, index, and middle finger is a tripod grip, the motion most often used to pick up an item.

21. Screwing and unscrewing jars

screwing and unscrewing jars is one of the most helpful hand exercises for spinal cord injury

Screwing and unscrewing a jar is a great way to practice maintaining a grip and repeating twisting motions.

22. Turning pages of a book

Turning the pages of a book teaches you to regulate the amount of grip needed to perform the action.

23. Hole punching

A hole puncher is a great tool to develop and strengthen the smaller muscles in the palm of your hands because it requires clenching motions.

You can adjust the difficulty by adding more paper.

Why These Hand Exercises Work

All these everyday tasks are effective hand exercises for spinal cord injury recovery because they help you repeat functional motions.

Exercise is most effective when you don’t think of it as a chore.

Refer to our article on Hand Therapy Exercises for stretches, therapy ball exercises, and putty exercises that build hand strength and dexterity after spinal cord injury.

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