What is the importance of doing hand exercises for stroke survivors?
The importance of early activity in limbs that were affected by a stroke, has been proven by studies.
Usually, a stroke survivor will learn how to exercise an affected hand with the help of a physical and/or occupational therapist. Therapists will teach ways to use the hand, post-stroke, and also bring about muscle strengthening of the muscles in the affected hand and arm.
Get Ready for Rehab…
Rehab takes a whole lot of determination and a chunk of your energy. Since this is the case these general tips can help:
- Plan rehab therapy and activities earlier in the day when you have strength.
- Eat well, focusing on nutritious foods– especially protein, which is needed for muscle development and brain regeneration.
- Try to fit in pleasant activities to reduce stress. This will boost the effects of the rehab.
- Get the best quality sleep that you can, to gather strength for recovery.
- Medication should be taken as prescribed.
Got to Hand it to you…
Doing hand and arm stretches can reduce the tension in the muscles (spasticity). You need to do stretches in combination with other exercises that actually build muscles.
Both when you stretch the muscles of the hand and when you build the muscles of the hand, you need to do reparative tasks. Repetitive tasks are fundamental to stroke recovery.
The reason for this is that doing the same activity again and again builds up neural pathways in the amazing brain. It has been proven more and more in recent years that the brain is “plastic”. That means that the brain can recover and adapt even if one part became damaged trough stroke.
Ancient medicines saw the body as “mapped out” in miniature in other parts of the body. We know of this concept in foot reflexology, where the body is mapped out on the feet. It is also believed to be true of the hands. Science may not have empirical evidence as to the effectiveness of hand or foot reflexology or acupressure. But there probably is great significance in focusing on stroke recovery in the hand. It may be effective for recovery for all affected parts of the body.
See below for resources that include illustrated guides for hand exercises.
Newer or Less Known-About Therapies
Constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) is a less practiced therapy. The main reasons for this are that insurance generally does not pay for CIMT. Additionally, since CIMT needs some body movement to make it work well, it is only suitable for some stroke survivors, with mild stroke cases.
Biofeedback Biofeedback gives an awareness to the survivor of muscle contractions. The basis to this therapy is that if a person is aware of how they are moving, they can focus on making more controlled movements.
Mirror Therapy Mirror Therapy uses a simple method to trick the brain into thinking that an affected limb is working well.
You can find exercises (with images) to strengthen the hand and the arm in these resources. It is really quite important to follow your own therapist’s personalized plan for you. No person is affected by a stroke in exactly the same way. That is why an individualized approach is necessary.
While you may get ideas from these resources, it is more important to do the in-between-session or at-home exercises that were given to you, before you take on other, different exercises.
Medicalopedia – Fine Motor Skills for Seniors
Every effort that you put in should bear fruit at some point for you. Hand exercises for stroke survivors is one part of the larger picture of stroke recovery for seniors. Remember to take your medication, and use a good rehabilitation professional who is blessed with experience and dedication. Your continuous efforts to exercise, while researching as to new developments in the field, will pay off. The road to recovery may be long, but the streets can be paved with a golden, positive outlook.