ADHD: A Parenting Guide

Regaining Hand and Arm Movement after a Stroke

If you've lost some of the function of your arm and hand because of a stroke, a disciplined approach to physical therapy can gain some of that back. You'll work with a physical therapist who is knowledgeable in stroke rehabilitation, but it is up to you to do many of the exercises on your own. The more effort you put into your arm and hand rehab, the more functionality you'll recover. Here is what to expect during your stroke recovery to regain the use of your arm and hand.

Why This Can Be Difficult Therapy

You are recovering many pieces of your life after a stroke. You may have lost the use of all or part of a leg and foot, your arm and hand, and facial muscles. There may be some loss of memory and cognitive thinking ability. You have many areas to work on to get that functionality back.

What makes arm and hand therapy different is that the other arm and hand are likely still functional. Many people will rely on that "good" arm and hand to do daily activities and ignore the other arm and hand. Disuse of the affected arm and hand allow muscles to atrophy and joints to stiffen. To get back the use of that arm and hand, you need to work hard to make it part of your daily tasks. This means doing a lot of work to strengthen and stretch out those parts.

Stretching Exercises

Keeping the muscles stretched out in your arm and hand prevent them from contracting in on themselves. If not used, the affected hand will curl up into a tight ball, perhaps so much that your fingernails dig into your palm. Your elbow will contract until your arm is folded in on itself. You'll use your other arm to stretch out your affected one with these exercises:

  • Pull all of the fingers out and bend them back slightly for a few seconds.
  • Move each finger through its full range of motion.
  • Move the wrist back as far as it will go comfortably and hold.
  • Extend the elbow as far as it will go and hold.

Functional Exercises

By forcing the affected hand to do certain tasks over and over, the brain can reprogram itself to learn new movements in that hand. This allows you to begin to use the affected hand along with your unaffected hand to do chores around your home. Your physical therapist will show you a variety of exercises to begin to regain function of your hand. These can include the following:

  • Wrap your fingers around a drawer handle and open and close the drawer several times.
  • Place a plastic shopping bag in your affected hand and carry it across the room and back. Place a lightweight object in the bag and repeat.
  • Place a toothpaste tube in your hand and try to squeeze it.
  • Turn a light switch on and off with the affected hand. Try to grasp the knob on a dimmer switch and rotate it back and forth.

While simple, these exercises are getting your brain, nerves, muscles, and hand to work together again to allow you to regain the use of that hand. To learn more about physical therapy, consider contacting Advance Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation.