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American Stroke Foundation

ExerciseTargeted Hand Exercises for Survivors of Stroke Using Therapy Putty

Targeted Hand Exercises for Survivors of Stroke Using Therapy Putty

This video shows you some ways you can use therapy putty to help stretch out and strengthen the muscles in your hands and fingers of your stroke affected side. This video is a follow-up to a previous video which show you how to make your own therapy putty at home.

These exercises will focus primarily on extension since increased flexion in the hand and arm is common among many survivors of stroke.

Before You Begin & Warm-Up (0:59-3:01)

Since the putty itself cannot be cleaned or sanitized, wash your hands before handling and use a clean surface. This helps ensure the putty will last longer.

Before we get started with the therapy putty, it’s important to warm up your joints first. Use your unaffected hand as needed to help with these movements. If your joints are particularly tight, be sure to go slow and pause the video as needed to properly stretch.

Place your affected hand palm up on a flat surface and let’s start by getting your thumb moving.

Finger Scissors (3:02 - 4:16)

You will only need about half of the putty for this exercise.

  • Form a ball and place it between your index and middle fingers just above where the 2 fingers meet.
  • Squeeze the putty with those two fingers, as if they are scissors trying to cut the putty. Your other hand can help if needed, but try to do as much as you can with just those 2 fingers before letting your other hand assist.
  • Reshape the putty into a ball and repeat the process between all fingers.

Rolling a Snake (4:17 - 4:55)

To make a snake, roll the putty back and forth between your hand and the table. Try to keep your fingers straight and roll back and forth to the end of your fingers each time.

Two-Finger Spread (4:56 - 5:53)

  • Roll a snake and then break it into several smaller pieces.
  • Wrap one of those pieces around your index and middle fingers.
  • Once the putty is secure, spread your fingers apart as far as you can.
  • Repeat with your middle and ring fingers as well as with your ring and pinky fingers.

Full-Finger Spread (5:54 - 6:32)

  • Roll a snake using at least half of the putty or more, depending on how large your hand is.
  • Place all your fingertips together and wrap the putty in a ring around them.
  • Spread your fingers outward, resisting the putty as you do so.

Finger Extension (6:33 - 7:50)

  • Roll a snake and then break it into several smaller pieces.
  • Wrap one of those smaller pieces around the tip of your index finger and grab the ends of the putty with your other hand.
  • Bend your index finger towards your palm and with your other hand still holding on to the ends of the putty, pin them to the palm of your hand.
  • With the putty secure, extend your finger as far as you can. Repeat this process with each finger.

Three Finger Pinch & Pull (7:51 - 8:26)

  • This exercise uses all of the putty molded into a thick cylinder.
  • Hold the putty in one hand in the same way you’d hold an ice cream cone – not too tight but not too loose.
  • With the other hand, use your thumb, index, and middle fingers to pinch around the cylinder, then tug the putty outward.
  • Reshape the putty and repeat several times.

Meatballs & Pancakes (8:27 - 9:18)

  • Flatten the putty between the palms of your hands (making the ‘pancake’).
  • Then, in just one hand, your affected hand if possible, roll the pancake back into a ball (the ‘meatball’).
  • Flatten the putty into the pancake again.
  • Just as before, using only one hand, form the meatball.
  • Repeat several times.

Wrap-Up & References (9:19-9:50)

Be patient with yourself!

Some of these hand exercises are much harder than others and it might take a while and a lot of practice to be able to do all of them. So, be patient with yourself as you work on improving the use of your affected hand.

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