Hand exercises

Does anyone have any good exercises for a stiff hand? I've lost a lot of dexterity and would like to see if I could regain some.

My therapist has given me some putty to work with but I'd like to try a few more things if possible. Before the stroke I used to love gaming on the XBox, this isn't really an option at the moment but I'd like to return to it

Try touching the tip of each finger with the top of your thumb. Get a small cardboard box and clip clothes pegs round the top and side edges. Then take them off and put them on again with the weak hand. Constant repetition, however boring, will help.

Thanks Johnsmiley

Hi David, 

As well as the exercises already suggested you can also support your weaker wrist with you stronger hand and bend your hand down then rise it up I repeat these 10 times each time I do my exercises. Helps strengthen your wrist.  Hope that makes sense. 

Good luck!




Dear DAvid

Good advice already given. In addition, you might wish to ensure your good hand is exercised. I overlooked this and am now paying a heavy price. We need two equal sides !


Thanks Kay

Cheers Colin

I also got the putty but preferred the other options I was given which was trying to pick up cocktail sticks off a polished table and place them in an egg cup. Picking up different kinds and sizes of small beads. Filling one jug with water and transferring the water into another jug without spilling it and increasing the water as you progress. Another one was using your good hand, roll a tennis ball to your weak hand along a table and catch it then roll it back to your good hand. This exercise progresses to having someone throw you a tennis ball and catch it with the weak hand and throwing it back to them with your weak hand. 

I'm almost 2 years post stroke and can do most of the above except I can't throw! I can catch but if I throw anything, I'm miles off my target! I practice throwing the empty toilet roll into the wastebin in the bathroom from sitting on the loo (sorry if this is too much info :) ) I think I've only managed to get it in the bin a couple of times!  But hey, practice makes perfect!

As already mentioned, clothes pegs are highly recommended, and trying to touch each fingertip with the thumb. Picking up small beads and moving them around a table works well too, and heavier objects too as the strength returns. 

A small tennis sized ball which can be squeezed is good, and it can also be used for throwing gently from hand to hand. Eventually got an adjustable sprung hand grip exerciser, which only cost a few pounds in places like Argos, Sports Direct, or Amazon.

My physios recommended washing up, as well as dusting and window cleaning. I dont know if they were hinting that my house was dirty or not, but it all helped. ☺


Thanks Mike I'll give this a try (maybe not the dusting though!)

You don’t actually have to do this as a domestic job, the importance lies in the hand movement involved. I was advised to do these movements and it did help. I have also found folding clothes and towels helpful and utilising the weak arm and hand as much as possible. 

I am right handed, but could cut the finger nails of my right hand with my left. After the stroke, I thought that ability gone forever, but with patience and care I can do it! I cannot cut them as well as before, but I manage. Another task that helps is pegging out clothes on the clothes line.

John has hit the nail on the head there..... the important part is the movement, rather than the task.

In the early days, my right hand and arm had no movement at all. I was loaned a "mirror box" and "microstim" to begin with, and was eventually able to move on to some of the tasks mentioned earlier. 

One I didnt mention was the repeatedly reorganising bookshelves (videos can also be used if you dont have books).

I'd start off kneeling in front of a bookcase, and taking books off one at a time and laying them on the floor (more often or not just dropping them at first), then trying to put them back in a different order.

To begin with, half a dozen books were enough to tire my fingers out, but I kept with it, and was eventually able to work through the whole bookcase. After that, it was a matter of doing it as often as possible, in addition to the other exercises.

Whatever you do, you'll get days you feel like you're getting nowhere, then others days you start looking for harder challenges. Perseverance is the key......

Dear Mike H,


I am the wife of a stroke surviver, and I am very interested in what you said. My husband has just now, five months into his stroke, to move the thumb and little finger on the left side.

May I ask please, what is a mirror box and a microstim, what do they do, and can we purchase them privately? We were never told about anything like that, the medical team said, since my husband did not show any movement until now in his arm, he will not recover. Because I am very optimistic, I want to try things on my own to help him. 

Hi Tinkerbell. Both bits of kit were lent to me by my local NHS Early Discharge Team, who visited me at home 5 or 6 days a week for 3 months.

Hopefully this will work..... https://www.odstockmedical.com/products/microstim-2v2-kit


Apologies if the above is a bit brief...... I was trying to reply using a small tablet, and for some reason struggled to include both links, and the reply boxes kept diminishing in size, for some reason.

The microstim has pads that are attached to the fore arm (positioning the pads correctly is quite important) and the machine sends pulses of low voltage electricity into the muscles, causing them to contract and expand.

The mirror box works (hopefully) by tricking the brain into thinking that the affected fingers and hand are moving.

I've not explained things very well I'm afraid, but there should be more info online in regards to there use.

Dear Mike H,


Thank you for replying, I really, really appreciate it. You have explained it perfectly.

Tinkerbell, here are some more thoughts on microstims and mirror box therapy, along with the instructions I was given for using the mirror box.

As mentioned, when given the microstim, I was shown the correct places to attach the contact pads by a physiotherapist. I then used a permanent marker to draw round the pads for my own reference when using it myself. I cant remember what instructions came with it, so unless shown by someone who has used one, or knows how to use one, you might not be able to achieve best results.

As for the mirror box, at first I had very little or no movement at all in my affected hand. My physio recommended that my partner sat oppposite me, and also put her hand into the box.... very lightly touching mine. As my good fingers/hand outside the box started each exercise movement, she would use a fingertip under my corresponding finger inside the box, and gently assist in moving it. (Ha!!! Thats another bit I'm probably not explaining very well, but hopefully you'll get the gist of it.  

As with all things to do with stroke recovery, improvemnt may be very slow, and very negligable, and at times both frustrating and depressing, but.....

Mirror Box Therapy Treatment Plan.

Use a mirror box to 'trick' your brain into thinking your affected arm works. This will need to be done daily for at least 15 minutes. When completing mirror box therapy you will need to ensure you focus on the mirror image and not your unaffected hand... also ensure you are visualising the movement you want to complete and trying to move the affected hand, but do not focus on what your affected hand is actually doing in the box and worry about this. Remove and jewellryon your hand/wrist.


Palm on table, lift individual fingers. Repeat 15 times (little and ring finger can go together).

Make a fist and stretch fingers out. Repeat 15 times.

Palm on table with fingers together, spread fingers apart as far as they will go, and then back in. Repeat 15 times.

Palm up, touch all fingertips with your thumb. Repeat 15 times.

Palm on table, bend knuckles keeping fingers straight so you create a triangular bridge. Repeat 15 times.

Hand on side, bend wrist as far back as it will go, then as far forward as it will go. Repeat 15 times.

Palm on table, lift palms so they are facing upwards, then move so that they are back on the table again. Repeat 15 times.

Get two identical (or near identical) everyday objects (such as pens, clothes pegs, key, bar of soap, spoon...) put one on the table and one in the mirror box- pick up the object, put back down, and release. Repeat 15 times.

Dear Mike H,


Once again, thank you for your kindness in explaining it to me, and for replying, I do really appreciate it.

I know that each stroke surviver recovers at a different pace, due to the brain damage, but how long did it take you to start regaining movement in your arm? My husband had a stroke 5 months ago, and against all predictions from the medical team who quite cathegorically stated that, if he did not start moving his arm within two months, he would never do it. Five months down the line, he is slightly moving his thumb and little finger. I like things like these, to show the medical team, that their so-called medical evidence can often be wrong.

Tinkerbell, I had my stroke 2 years ago, and I think it was about 2 months before I could start moving some of my fingers on demand. Just after the stroke, my hand was almost claw like, but the fingers would move into a tight fist involuntary every time I yawned. I'd then try to straighten them using my good hand.

Even now, the fingers are a bit stiff, and there are a few things I sometimes struggle with, but compared to 2 years ago.....

Maybe because I'm naturally right handed, and it was that side affected, I had a real incentive to work hard at all the exercises the physio team gave me, and they often told me off for doing too much.

Have you tried the GRASP program? I’ve been using it for a month and have seen some progress. It’s a program of exercises developed in the states. Just google GRASP and you should find it easily enough. If not I could send it by email.