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7 Practical Occupational Therapy Exercises for Stroke Patients to Try at Home

stroke patient working with occupational therapist on practical exercises

Occupational therapy exercises for stroke patients can help you improve your independence.

While engaging in physical therapy is essential during stroke recovery, it’s equally important to do some task-specific exercises for occupational therapy.

Before we dig into the occupational therapy exercises for stroke patients, you should know how it differs from physical therapy.

Occupational Therapy Exercises vs Physical Therapy

Occupational therapy exercises are designed to help you get back to the activities of daily living.

The exercises designed for occupational therapy are usually task-specific, which means that they directly translate to your ability to carry out a certain task.

This differs from physical therapy for stroke patients, like range of motion and strengthening exercises, which is focused purely on motor recovery.

While physical therapy improves overall mobility, occupational therapy helps you apply it to your daily life.

Useful At-Home Occupational Therapy Exercises for Stroke Patients

Now that you understand the difference, let’s dig into some great occupational therapy exercises that you can try at home:

1. Opening the Door

Practice turning the door knob or door handles on the doors at home.

If you have different styles of knobs or handles throughout the house, change it up and try different ones every day.

In addition to making you more independent in getting around at home, this exercise will help improve your finger dexterity and hand range of motion.

To make it more challenging, practice turning the doorknob to the right and then to the left. Similarly, practice turning the door handle up and then down.

Do it as many times as you can throughout the day, but be sure to take breaks!

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

2. Lock and Key

Similar to the exercise above, locks and keys come in a whole host of different shapes and sizes!

This exercise can look different for everyone depending on the locks you use most often. This can include: a dead bolt, a combination lock, a keypad lock, a knob lock, and even a swing bar lock.

Practice unlocking and relocking the locks on the doors that you encounter most often.

This exercise will help you with improve your fine motor and gross motor skills.

You can also purchase or create a lock board to help you practice this exercise while staying in one place!

3. Wiping the Table

Don’t cry over spilled milk – wipe it up instead! To do this exercise, you’ll need a towel and a flat surface, such as a table.

Make sure the towel is unfolded on top of the table. Place your hand over the towel and move the towel around the table.

Try reaching left and right, up and down, diagonally, and into the far corners of the table.

This exercise will work on arm and hand range of motion. With practice, it should also make the task of wiping other surfaces around the house easier as well!

4. Cutting Putty

For this exercise, you’ll need therapy putty, a fork, a butter knife, and a plate or flat surface.

Take the therapy putty out of the container, and roll it between your hands to make it a long and cylindrical in shape.

Place it on the plate or flat surface in front of you.

Take your fork and butter knife and try to cut the therapy putty into small bite-sized pieces.

This will work on your fine motor and dexterity skills.

It should also help make meal time a lot easier over time as your brain rewires and creates new pathways in your brain for these activities! 

5. Playing Puzzles and Board Games

Have some fun by playing puzzles and board games!

In addition to being a great time on their own, puzzles and board games such as checkers, chess, or even finger twister, promote finger dexterity and arm range of motion.

An added benefit of these games is that you can do play with others. This allows for a more social and interactive experience while you exercise and recover!

6. Manage your Medication

Managing your medication can actually be a very functional exercise.

To create a simulated medication management kit, you’ll need a few empty pill bottles and colourful beads.

Practice by opening the pill bottles, and putting in a few beads at a time.

You can increase the challenge by making different bottles represent different times of the day (such as morning or evening) and having different colored beads represent different pills.

You can find an example of a home-made simulated medication management kit here.

In addition to improving your finger dexterity, fine motor abilities, and coordination, this exercise can be a great cognitive exercise as well!

7. Crumple a Piece of Paper

To do this exercise, you’ll need a piece of paper and a hard surface to work on, such as a table.

Start by taking the piece of paper in both hands and crumpling. Make sure you use both arms equally!

Once you’ve crumpled the paper, try and uncrumple it, again using both arms.

It is important that you keep your shoulders down and relaxed throughout the exercise.

This exercise will help strengthen your shoulder muscles as well as improve your fine motor abilities.

And that’s a wrap on our list of occupational therapy exercises for stroke patients! We hope these exercises help you on the road to recovery.

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See how Susan is recovering from post-stroke paralysis

“I had a stroke five years ago causing paralysis on my left side which remains today.

I recently began using FitMi.

At first it was difficult for me to be successful with a few of the exercises but the more I use it, the better my scores become.

I have recently had some movement in my left arm that I did not have before.

I don’t know if I can directly relate this to the use of the FitMi but I am not having occupational therapy so I conclude that it must be benefiting me.

The therapy modality motivates me to use it daily and challenges me to compete against my earlier scores.

I heartily recommend it!-Susan, stroke survivor

FitMi is our best-selling home therapy tool because it helps patients of all ability levels.

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