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Your physical therapist may give you exercises to do with resistance putty.
You use your hands for tasks every day, making your fingers vulnerable to injury. Muscle strains, ligament sprains, fractures and tendon injuries often require several weeks to heal, preventing or limiting use of the fingers during recovery. Once you have been cleared by your doctor, exercises can be performed to restore your finger strength.
Active Range of Motion
Fingers are often immobilized for a period of time during the healing process after an injury. This can result in weakness with active range of motion, movement against gravity. Tendon gliding exercises improve finger strength early after finger injury. Each exercise is typically performed 10 times, working up to 3 sets in a row.
Hook fists are made by bending the finger knuckles while keeping the large knuckles straight. Between each repetition, you fully fully straighten your fingers. This exercise strengthens muscles that start and end in the hand. Full-fist exercises strengthen muscles that start in the forearm and end in the hand. Flat-fist exercises bend the large and middle knuckles of the fingers while keeping the last knuckle straight, strengthening small muscles in the hand.
Resistance putty is used for finger strengthening after injury. This putty is available in different levels of resistance, making it easy to progress exercises as your strength improves. Exercises are typically performed 10 times each, working up to 3 sets in a row. Once this can be done easily, resistance can be increased.
Finger bending is strengthened by placing the putty in the palm at the base of the fingers, then bending the fingers down into the putty as far as possible. In between repetitions, the putty is reshaped into a ball. Finger straightening is strengthened by bringing all of the tips of the fingers together. The putty is shaped into a small circle and placed over the fingertips. The fingers slowly pull away from each other against the resistance of the putty.
Putty is also used to strengthen the thumb. The putty is molded into a barrel shape and gently held in the palm with the fingers. The thumb is bent into the putty, as far as possible. The putty is reshaped and the exercise is repeated 10 times. Muscles that straighten the thumb are strengthened in the opposite direction. The putty is looped over the thumb and both ends are held with the remaining fingers. The thumb raises up into a "hitchhiking" position against the resistance of the putty.
Pinch strength is needed for fine motor tasks, such as writing, buttoning and pulling zippers. Resistance putty exercises improve pinch between the thumb, index and middle fingers. Pinching and pulling off a small piece of putty strengthens thumb and finger muscles. This exercise can be performed for 2 to 5 minutes or in sets of 10 repetitions, working up to 3 sets in a row. Small beads or similar objects can be buried in a ball of putty, then dug out with the thumb and index fingers to improve pinch strength. Pinch can also be strengthened by squeezing a clothespin.
Grip strength can be improved with several exercises. Ball squeezes using a tennis ball or similar sized flexible ball can be performed for 2 to 5 minutes at a time, or in sets of 10 repetitions. A rolled towel or sponge can also be used for grip strengthening. Several types of grip-strengthening exercise devices can also be found at sporting goods stores.