Hands are an extremely important part of our everyday lives. That’s a pretty obvious fact. But sometimes we don’t realize just how much we take them for granted until we start having problems with them; pain, soreness, stiffness, range of motion issues, etc. Luckily, physical therapists and even occupational therapists have started using a new exercise tool to help people with their different hand ailments called “TheraPutty”. So, what is TheraPutty and how is it used? Well, keep reading and we’ll answer those questions and throw in some of the best TheraPutty exercises too!
What is Theraputty?
So, what is TheraPutty exactly? Good question! TheraPutty is a resistive material used for rehabilitation and strengthening of the fingers, hands, and forearms. As a substance, TheraPutty resembles regular silly putty that you would find kids playing with.
Typically, the TheraPutty is used by having the patient perform squeezing, pulling, and pushing exercises. These different motions will target different muscles within the hands. And, just like TheraBands which can be used for other parts of the body, each color of the putty coincides with a different consistency or resistance. This will make some of the best TheraPutty exercises more difficult as your patient progresses through the color-coded levels.
The Benefits of Using TheraPutty
Using TheraPutty with your patients can provide them with a lot of benefits. Here are three benefits that your patients can reap from using TheraPutty:
Gradual Testing and Improvement
First, TheraPutty allows the patient to gradually test their strengths and push their limits, which in turn results in gradual improvement. Pushing a patient too quickly can result in more problems and more pain. That is why it is important to take the process step by step, which is where the color-coded resistance system comes into play.
Theraputty comes in six different colors and resistances. These range from tan to black.
Tan = Extra, Extra Soft
Yellow = Extra Soft
Red = Medium Soft
Green = Medium Firm
Blue = Firm
Black = Extra Firm
With these in mind, tan (being the softest) would be best for those patients that are in the beginning stages of rehabilitation. These patients may have very little to no strength in their hands and are going to need a very light resistance. Black, extra firm TheraPutty, is the best fit for patients that are athletes or who have great hand strength. They will need a lot more resistance since they already have a base strength to work with.
So, as you can see, TheraPutty allows patients to work up their strength and push themselves gradually so that they can avoid more pain in the future.
Temporary or Chronic
TheraPutty can be used to improve both temporary and chronic problems that your patients may be facing. For example, this tool can be used to improve a patient’s arthritis pain, a chronic issue, that they may have struggled to deal with in the past.
Solves a Wide Range of Problems and Injuries
Another benefit of TheraPutty is its ability to be used for a wide variety of hand problems and workplace injuries. Some of the best TheraPutty exercises can help improve the following problems that patients may face:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Hand weakness due to many different problems, including stroke or cervical radiculopathy
- Trigger Finger
- Tendon Surgery (or any hand surgery)
- Hand Fracture
- Arm Fracture
TheraPutty can also be used to simply maintain the strength that you have in order to prevent problems from occurring in the future.
9 of the Best TheraPutty Exercises
Now that we know what TheraPutty is, how it’s used, and some of the benefits of using it, let’s take a look at 9 of the best TheraPutty exercises that PTs and OTs use. These exercises are simple but extremely helpful when trying to gain strength in the fingers, hands, and forearms again.
1. Finger Press (Flexion)
For this exercise, the patient should lay the TheraPutty in their palm and press their fingers through the putty until they reach their palm. This will result in a fully clenched fist. Once they’ve achieved this, they’ll release their fingers, roll the putty in their hands to reshape it, and then repeat the exercises as many times as told.
2. Individual Finger Extension
Why they are doing this exercise, have the patient bend one finger or thumb so that the fingertip is close to the palm of their hand. Then have them wrap a strip of the TheraPutty over the tip of the bent finger and grasp both ends with their other hand. They will then proceed to straighten and bend the finger to feel the resistance. This should then be repeated for each finger.
3. Thumb Abduction / Thumb Adduction
For the thumb abduction exercise, form the Theraputty into a ring. Then place the ring around the index finger and the thumb of the patient. Have them move the thumb away from the index finger while keeping them perpendicular to one another.
For the thumb adduction exercise, place a ball of TheraPutty in the thumb web space. Once this is done, press the thumb towards the index finger.
4. Individual Finger Spread (Abduction)
This exercise is similar to that of the thumb abduction exercise. Here, have the person place two fingers together and wrap the TheraPutty around them, near the fingertips. Then tell them to try spreading them apart. This exercise should be repeated on different pairs of fingers until all of them have been exercised.
5. Finger Squeeze (Adduction)
The finger squeeze exercise is similar to the thumb adduction exercise. The patient should role the TheraPutty into a ball and place it between two spread fingers. In a scissor-like motion, the patient will try to bring the two fingers together. Again, this should be repeated using different pairs of fingers until they have all been exercised.
6. Finger Spread (Abduction)
Unlike all of the exercises, this one will use all of the fingers and thumb at the same time. The patient should form the TheraPutty into a flat, but thick pancake shape lying on the table or surface in front of them. Then they will bunch their fingertips together and place that in the center of the putty. At once, they should spread out all of their fingers, making the “pancake” spread out as much as possible with them.
7. Finger Pinch
There are two different types of finger pinch exercises that can be done with TheraPutty: 1) the Palmar Pinch and 2) the Key Pinch.
During the Palmar Pinch, the patient will form the TheraPutty into the shape of a ball. Then they will pinch the ball between the thumb, index finger, and middle finger until their fingertips press all the way through the putty.
For the Key Pinch, the patient will again form the TheraPutty into the shape of a ball. This time they will pinch the putty between their thumb and the side of their index finger. They will then push their thumb through the putty until it touches the side of their index finger.
8. Wrist Extension
The wrist extension has less to do with the fingers than you might expect and more to do with wrist strength. For this exercise, the patient will rest their forearm on a table or the arm of a chair with their palm facing downward, allowing the hand to hang over the edge. From here, they should grip the TheraPutty with the fingertips of the hand being exercised. Holding the putty firmly below with the other hand, they should straighten and extend their top wrist upward while keeping their arm on the table.
9. Wrist Flexion
Flexion is the opposite of extension. Thus, this is the other side of the previous exercise discussed. Here, the patient will rest their forearm on a table or the arm of a chair with their palm up. Again, they will grip the TheraPutty with the fingertips of the hand being exercised. Then, they will straighten and bend their wrist upward while holding the putty firmly with the other hand below.
Have you heard of any of these exercises? Do you know of any others? Let us know in the comments below!