Grip Strength Occupational Therapy

Grip Strength Occupational Therapy

Grip strength is often taken for granted. How many times a day do you hold a fork, cut your food, open a door, or hold a pen? However, when your natural ability to grip is taken away via accident, injury, or disability/disease, you are quickly reminded of its importance. Whether it’s tying a shoe, shaking a hand, walking your dog, brushing teeth, holding your cell-phone or driving your car, grip strength is an every-day necessity.

Grip strength allows us to pick up, open up, twist and turn, exercise, and a multitude of other daily activities.

While hand and forearm strength are typically ignored in a regular fitness regimen, it comes to the forefront when your grip strength is suffering. Moreover, if you struggle with a medical condition or injury that hinders your grip strength and/or motor movement, be sure to schedule an appointment with your occupational therapist or doctor immediately.

If you suffer from a lack of grip strength, occupational therapy offers a number of benefits and resources that can assist in exercising the musculature and motor movement patterns related to improving one’s grip strength.

As with any exercise program, please be sure to consult and listen to your occupational therapist for specific direction on sets, reps, rest times, etc.

Let’s get into it!

Occupational Therapy Goals for Grip Strength

Occupational therapy is unique in that it focuses on the rehabilitation of basic, every-day functions.

While occupational therapy goals are wide-spread, they are all identified and determined by the severity of a person’s deficit. The ultimate end goal, of course, is full restoration of functionality.

Much like the prescribed exercises, occupational therapy goals depend on the severity of the issue. One patient’s goal may be to dress themselves on their own in a 4 month period. Another patient’s goal may be to lift a particular weight for a certain distance.

Goals are varied and unique to the individual…

In an occupational setting, goals are categorized in a number of different ways. Anything from work-related goals, to strength and range of motion goals, and even personal-care goals are all possibilities in occupational therapy.

To give you a better idea of the type of goal you may be given in occupational therapy, here are a few examples:

• Be able to drive independently in 6 months
• Be able to pick up 50 pounds, holding it for 20 seconds
• Operate a piece of machinery (i.e. drill) within 4 weeks
• Pick up a tennis ball without assistance in 2 weeks
• Create a full fist in 1 month

Occupational therapy goals for grip strength play a key role in the success of a patient’s rehabilitation journey. Without them, a target to aim for and strive for would be non-existent, potentially resulting in a lack of foresight and motivation to improve…

In fact, in a research article out of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, “…participants identified a total of 149 goals, 81% of which were achieved.”. It was concluded that “goal-specific occupational therapy was strongly associated with achievement of self-identified goals…”.

Grip Strength Exercises Occupational Therapy

Depending on the severity of the issue, differing exercises are involved in therapy.

If the issue is highly severe, you may be prescribed by your occupational therapist a protocol of simple hand exercises requiring no equipment.

The following grip strength exercises have been shown, particularly in arthritis patients, to improve grip strength of the hand.

Grip strength exercises would include, but aren’t limited to:

• Making a fist
• Targeted finger pinching
• Spreading five fingers
• Wrist extension & flexion

This protocol would typically require 3 sets of 10-15 reps per hand. Depending on your ability level, this can be repeated multiple times throughout the day. Again, it’s important to consult and collaborate with your occupational therapist on the matter.

If the issue is severe, yet some motor movement and strength is present, you may be prescribed by your occupational therapist a protocol of grip strength exercises that include minor pieces of equipment such as: rubber bands, tennis ball, stress ball, therapy putty, etc.

Grip strength exercises would include, but aren’t limited to:

• Putty pinching
• Putty rolling
• Putty squeezing
• Rubber band spread-apart (5-finger)
• Tennis ball hold

This protocol would range in the vicinity of 3-5 sets, 10-15 reps per hand. Much like all of these protocols in this article, they can be repeated throughout the day if you are willing and able to do so.

If the issue isn’t so severe, motor movement is intact, and the primary goal is grip strength, this is where equipment may be formally introduced by your occupational therapist. Equipment that may be included: kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands, cable machines, plated weights, etc.

Grip strength exercises would include, but aren’t limited to:

• Farmers walk
• Reverse curls
• Towel row
• Unilateral cable row
• Dead hold
• Occupational device death grip holds

In Conclusion

When dealing with weak grip, it’s imperative you consult with an occupational therapist to improve grip strength via grip strength exercises and other modes of physical therapy. This goes for those dealing with a particular health condition or associated injury of any kind related to grip or motor movement.

In short, grip strength exercises for occupational therapy are plentiful, and goal-setting is paramount to the success of the patient.


ACE: How to Improve Grip Strength

Neuro Rehab Directory: Hand Exercises

The American Journal of Occupational Therapy

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