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9 Easy Hand Exercises For Post Stroke Patients

9 Easy Hand Exercises For Post Stroke Patients

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in Singapore. With its rapidly aging population, the number of stroke victims is expected to rise. Stroke affects everyone differently and it has a wide range of residual effects. The loss of hand and wrist function is one of them. As one of the most common post stroke impairments, a loss of hand function can be an overwhelming challenge. So how do you overcome this? Therapy centers like KJ are always prepared to help but the road to recovery can start with basic hand exercises.

Hand exercises can improve your fine motor skills and dexterity. It strengthens the connection between the brain and muscles through a series of repetitive exercises. With that, this article will talk about 9 easy hand exercises to help you recover from stroke. These exercises are repetitive rehabilitation movements that work on a range of motion. Before that, let’s take a look at how a stroke affects your brain and hand function.


How Stroke Affects Your Hand Function

The brain and nervous system are interconnected. Your muscles respond to the signals sent by the brain, controlling the way they move. A stroke can damage your brain and disrupt the way it sends signals to your muscles, causing a muscle disorder called spasticity.

Muscle spasticity can affect different parts of the body and in this case, your hands. Spasticity causes the muscles to become overactive which leaves them in a state of involuntary contraction.

The severity of muscle spasticity differs and stroke survivors may experience varied levels of stiffness and spasms. At its worst, spasticity can lead to clenched hands which can be painful. Spasticity can also worsen into a condition called contractures, a severe form of spasticity. This can be avoided when managed early and that’s where hand exercises come in.


Importance of Hand Exercises

Hand exercises for stroke survivors are meant to rewire the connection between the brain and muscles. This process is called neuroplasticity. A damaged brain cannot be reversed but neuroplasticity can rewire your hand functions to healthy areas of the brain.  

The best time to begin is immediately after a stroke and the process involves repetitive practice. This will stimulate the brain to rewire itself and strengthen connections. Starting immediately will also maximize recovery. 

The following exercises are easy to follow but they do differ in terms of complexity. They will be categorized into 3 levels, level 1 being the easiest. Patients with limited hand movement should start with level 1 and work their way onto the next.

These exercises should also be done at least 5 times a week. Start at a repetition that you’re comfortable with and slowly increase over time. Without further ado, here are 9 easy exercises that improve hand functions.


  • Level 1

    These exercises can be done passively with the help of your non affected hand. Simply use your non affected hand as a guide for your other hand. You should also gauge the level of assistance you need so you can apply the right amount of force. This is to slowly develop your affected hand without dependency on your unaffected one. 

    • Start this exercise with your hand facing palm down on a table. With the help of your non affected hand, slowly slide your wrist from left to right. Repeat the process and focus on making your affected hand work as much as possible


    • Up and Down
      Hand Exercise Up and Down Step 1

      Hand Exercise Up and Down Step 2
      (Image Source: Flintrehab.com)

      Place your elbow on the table as a starting position. Slowly move your wrist up and down and repeat the process. With the help of your other hand, stretch your affected hand from the palm to put more emphasis on your wrist.


    • Opening and Closing
      Hand Exercise Opening and Closing Step 1

      Hand Exercise Opening and Closing Step 2
      (Image Source: Saebo.com)

      Similar to the first exercise, your palm should be facing downwards on a table. Hold your affected hand by the fingers and thumb to close and open your hand. Do this exercise slowly and don’t apply too much pressure.
      You can also do it on a cloth if your hand tends to stick on the table. 


  • Level 2

    These exercises are for those with mild spasticity. They are more advanced than the first and you don’t need assistance from your unaffected hand. However, you must be able to grab objects in order to perform these exercises.

    • Wrist Curl
      Hand Exercise Wrist Curl Step 1

      Hand Exercise Wrist Curl Step 2
      (Image Source: Flintrehab.com)

      With a 500ml bottle of water, let your wrist stretch down and slowly curl it back up. It follows the same motion as the second exercise from level 1. This is a great way to build the muscles around your wrist. Place your elbow on a table if you need more support.


    • Hand Flips/Rotation
      Hand Exercise Hand Flip Step 2

      Hand Exercise Hand Flip Step 2
      (Image Source: Saebo.com)

      This exercise targets the forearm. With your arm on the table, turn your hand over to each side and make sure your thumb touches the table. Repeat the motion with a 500ml water bottle to add more resistance and build strength. 


    • Finger Movement
      Hand Exercise Finger Movement Step 1

      Hand Exercise Finger Movement Step 2
      (Image Source: Saebo.com)

      You need a bunch of coins to perform this exercise. Start with a single coin and place it under your finger. You then move the coin from side to side and proceed to do the same on the rest of your fingers.  To challenge yourself, try moving 5 coins simultaneously.


  • Level 3

    The following exercises are for patients with close to normal hand functions. As with the 2nd level, everyday items are incorporated into these exercises. Perform them regularly to  build strength and boost fine motor skills.

    • Deck of Cards
      Hand Exercise Deck of Cards Step 1

      Hand Exercise Deck of Cards Step 2
      (Image Source: Saebo.com)

      A deck of cards can be used in many different ways. Stacking, arranging or shuffling cards will work different areas of your hand muscles. Above all, you can perform this exercise anywhere. Try shuffling or stacking a bunch of cards while watching TV. You can also engage in a card game with your family member.


    • Stress Ball
      Hand Exercise Stress Ball Step 1

      Hand Exercise Stress Ball Step 2
      (Image Source: Saebo.com)

      A stress ball is another item that can be used in many different ways. You can start by squeezing the ball with your hands and fingers. Gradually increase the speed and you’ll get a great hand workout.  To build coordination and timing, try rolling the ball from one hand to the other.


    • Pen Spin
      Hand Exercise Pen Spin Step 1

      Hand Exercise Pen Spin Step 2
      (Image Source: Flintrehab.com)

      Pen spinning can build the strength and flexibility in your wrists. Place the pen on a table and lightly hold it by your fingers and thumb. Spin the pen in one direction and change its direction after a few spins. Gradually increase the speed overtime.



Hand impairments are one of many residual effects caused by stroke. It is an overwhelming challenge which may affect everyday activities such as typing, holding an object or buttoning a shirt. 

Nevertheless, with immediate action and the right hand exercises, you can improve your quality of life. If you find yourself struggling with hand spasticity due to stroke, we reckon you’ll find the above exercises useful. 

Keep in mind that these exercises are repetitive rehabilitation movements and they should be performed consistently. Lastly, don’t hesitate to contact us here if you need professional help. Our rehabilitation unit and occupational therapists are always available for assistance.