Top Hand Therapy Exercises

We spoke with Summit Orthopedics hand therapist Sara Balster, MS, OTR/L, CHT, to learn about the top hand therapy exercises you can do to stay limber and pain-free.


What kind of hand therapy exercises are best to help with grip strength, range of motion, and flexibility? We asked Summit Orthopedics hand therapist Sara Balster, MS, OTR/L, CHT, to share her best hand therapy exercises to help with common hand symptoms.

“The hand therapy exercises we use vary a lot. They’re tailored to the individual’s needs based on a detailed evaluation,” Balster said. “But in general, if you have stiffness and tightness to work on, there are a few exercises that can help.”

Top three general hand therapy exercises

Note: If you want to see photos or videos of these exercises, just type the name of the exercise into your favorite search engine.

  1. Tendon gliding exercises

    — “This is a set of movements that should be performed in order,” Balster said.

  • Rest your elbow on a tabletop, fingers pointing straight to the ceiling.
  • Then bend the middle and tip joints of your fingers into a hook fist.
  • Next, bend the knuckles down into a full fist.
  • Then, keeping your big knuckles bent, straighten the middle and end joints of the fingers to make a “tabletop.”
  • Finally, bend the middle joint of your fingers, with the goal of getting your fingertips to touch your palm. “We call this last position a straight fist,” Balster said.
  1. Wrist range of motion exercises

  • Begin by bending your wrist forward, then moving your wrist backward.
  • Bring your arm by your side with your elbow at 90 degrees.
  • Rotate your hand, so your palm is facing the ceiling.
  • Then, rotate your palm, so it faces the ground.
  1. Forearm stretching exercises

  • Hold the affected arm in front of you, palm down.
  • Use your other hand to gently press the wrist down to feel a stretch at the top of your forearm.
  • Then, in the same position, stretch your wrist and fingers back to feel a stretch along the bottom of your forearm.

For every exercise, Balster advised, “Go slowly. You want to feel a gentle, comfortable stretch, but stop before you feel any pain.”

Summit Orthopedics provides personalized hand and wrist expertise

The function of our hands is integrated through our wrists and arms to our shoulders; a problem anywhere along our arm may have a significant impact on hand function and quality of life. If you experience an injury or uncomfortable symptoms, our fellowship-trained hand and wrist surgeons are here to help. Summit physicians receive the highest levels of training and exclusively provide individualized care for conditions of the hand, wrist, and elbow.

Start your journey to better function and less pain. Find your hand expert, schedule an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MNPlymouth, MNVadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.

More resources for you:

Share this on
Share on FacebookShare on TwitterPin on Pinterest

Also see...