Hand Exercises
Medically reviewed by Karen Murray, OT, CHT, CSRS - written by Stroke-rehab.com

Hand Exercises

Hand function and fine motor skills are often impaired after having a stroke. Hand exercises are beneficial in improving strength and dexterity regardless of whether the stroke patient is just beginning to get hand movement or already has good hand range of motion.

Page Table of Contents

  1. Hand Exercise Pics
  2. Other Exercises
  3. In Hand Manipulation Skills
  4. Unique and Advanced Hand Exercises
  5. The Paralyzed Hand
  6. Newsletter Sign Up

The exercises below can help improve fine motor skills that have deteriorated after a stroke. Please note that some activities may be too easy or too hard depending on the extent of impairment. If the stroke patient has no hand movement, see the paragraph at the end of this page for treatment ideas. For those that do have hand movement, try the following:

Hand Activities for Coordination

Placing Pennies in Container
Turning nut and bolt
Turn Cards Over

Put pennies in a container or stack them.

Put together nuts and bolts or turn screws

Turn Cards Over

Playing Piano
Pinch Strengthening

Play the piano or keyboard

Pinch clothespins, chip clips or binder clips.

String Beads

Puzzle Pieces
Playing Chess
Writing Exercise

Put together puzzles

Play chess or checkers

Practice writing or printing exercises

Other Hand Exercises

Practice typing or writing.

Pick up small objects like buttons, screws, washers, coins, etc.

Crumple a sheet of paper into a ball. Try to spread it back out into a flat piece of paper using only the affected hand.

Pick up empty cans and then put them back down.

Roll a pencil between the thumb and fingers.

Place your hand on the table, and try to lift each finger one at a time off of the table as in the video below:

Practice buttoning.

Pick up toothpicks with tweezers.

Wring out washcloths.

Fill a bowl with rice and place objects in the rice. Try to find the objects with your hand without looking.


Try some of the fine motor apps available for smart phones and tablets. Some apps that work on fine motor skills include Dexteria, Magic Tiles 3, Magic Piano, Finger Run, and Fruit Ninja to name a few.

Plant seeds.

Perform theraputty exercises. See video below for some examples of putty exercises.

Pick up small objects (e.g. marbles or checkers) one at a time transferring each one to the palm of your hand and holding onto it as you pick up the next object. Then without letting objects fall out of the hand, place each object back down one at a time (See in hand manipulation skills section below).

In Hand Manipulation Skills

In hand manipulation skills refer to the ability to manipulate objects within the hand and include the skills of translation, rotation, and shift. Translation involves moving objects from the fingertips to palm and from the palm to fingertips. Rotation is the ability to rotate objects with the fingers, and shift is the ability to move objects with the fingers linearly. Below is a video that demonstrates the various in hand manipulation techniques. One can practice these exercises to help improve fine motor coordination and the ability to manipulate a pen for writing.

Fun and Unique Hand Exercises

Are you looking for fine motor exercises that might be a little more fun or involve more intricate movement? Then try some of these:

Learn Sign Language

Fruit and Vegetable Carving: Start with softer fruits like bananas and cucumbers and gradually progress to more intricate designs using carrots and radishes. This activity challenges fine motor control and fosters creativity. (This is only appropriate if cognition and protective sensation are intact)

Thread Art: Set up a large corkboard or canvas and use colored threads or yarn to create intricate designs. You can wrap the threads around pins or hooks to form beautiful thread art. 

Calligraphy and Hand Lettering: Try calligraphy or hand lettering. Use various pens and markers and try different writing styles. 

Seed Bead Mosaics: Provide a variety of small seed beads and a base material like sturdy cardboard or foam. They can create colorful mosaics by gluing the beads onto the base, which requires precise finger movements and attention to detail.

Recycled Material Sculptures: Create sculptures using recycled materials like paper rolls, bottle caps, and cardboard pieces. Assembling these materials requires fine motor skills and provides an outlet for artistic expression.

Rubber Band String Art: Set up a pegboard and  stretch and hook rubber bands between pegs to create geometric designs or pictures. This activity enhances finger strength and coordination.

Digital 3D Modeling: If you are comfortable with a computer, try digital 3D modeling software. You can create virtual sculptures and designs, which involves precise mouse or stylus control.

Hole Punch Art: Use construction paper and a hole punch to craft different shapes and artwork. 

The Paralyzed Hand

If one is unable to move the hand or fingers, then exercises should emphasize on stretching the hand and using the other hand to move the fingers of the paralyzed hand. When the hand is without movement, one can also practice placing the open hand on an object such as a table or ball and trying to keep it there without the hand falling off or fingers curling up.

One can attempt to elicit finger and wrist movement by tapping the muscles in the forearm. Tapping the back of the forearm will help elicit the fingers and wrist straightening. Tapping the other side of the forearm will elicit finger and wrist flexion (or bending). With the help of a therapist, one can also try equipment designed to help improve hand function such as the Motus Hand. Ask your therapist if these treatments would be appropriate for you.

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Newsletter Sign Up

Receive Stroke Recovery Tips, our online quarterly newsletter. Sign up below for free tips on exercises, resources, latest technology, apps, research and more!

To view past issues of Stroke Recovery Tips, visit  https://www.stroke-rehab.com/Stroke-Recovery-Tips-BackIssues.html

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