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.”

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