Occupational therapists, it’s time to break out one of your all-time favorite childhood playthings – silly putty! A new and wonderful technique being used in occupational therapy called theraputty is helping those strengthen their hands and fingers.
The make and use of theraputty are a little different than your average dollar store silly putty. While you may be used to sculpting figures or cramming regular putty into small spaces, this new type is helping those with weaker muscles.
What is Theraputty?
Theraputty is a silicone material made from non-toxic ingredients. It also doesn’t contain any transferable dyes to the skin, clothes or other surfaces, making it usable anywhere. And for all you healthier therapists out there…it’s even gluten free! This stronger form of putty is now helping occupational therapists treat hand injuries and weakness with treatments other than massage.
This therapy technique has been shown to help children with special needs and autism in play therapy. Therapists can hide coins, toys, or small objects in the putty for patients to dig out. These movements paired with the strength of the putty helps children develop fine motor skills and strengthen muscles. The same can be said for older patients who have suffered a stroke and need to rebuild strength in their hands and forearms.
Breakdown of Colors
Theraputty has a full assortment of different colors associated with its resistance level. Each color will give the user a different experience.
Tan- Extra-Extra Soft Resistance
Yellow- Extra Soft Resistance
Red- Soft Resistance
Green- Medium Resistance
Blue- Firm Resistance
Black- Extra Firm Resistance
Exercises for Patients
The exercises have many benefits for therapy patients when done correctly. These exercises can be performed with your therapist, or completed at home as prescribed by a doctor. What makes theraputty great, is that is can be taken anywhere, making it easy to practice exercises anytime you feel pain or stiffness.
Thumb and Grip Strengthening
To strengthen the thumb, try completing thumb extensions and thumb presses with the putty. For an extension, loop the putty around your bent thumb, holding the excess with your hand. Then, lift the bent portion of your thumb up. It’s kind of like a bicep curl for your thumb. When doing the thumb press, keep the ball of putty in your hand and push your thumb through towards your pinky. To strengthen your overall grip, hold the putty in your hand and squeeze as hard as you can. Also, try rolling the putty around and in your hands as hard as you can.
There are so many finger exercises you can do with Theraputty, but to start, try a finger dig. While holding the putty in your hand, your forefinger to dig through the putty until you reach your palm. To make this a little more difficult, try increasing the resistance of the putty, or placing a coin or small object in the putty. You can also try a finger pinch. This entails rolling the putty into smaller balls and pinching your fingers to pick them up. This will help improve skills in picking up actual objects around the house.
Exercises in refining motor skills can be especially fun with younger patients. Have your patients use the theraputty to mold into fun shapes or characters. Not only will it test their imagination, but it will help them learn to stack objects.
In addition to the putty itself, there are some great tools that can be used to help with exercises. These tools include knobs, pegs, keys, and bars that stick into the putty. Having patients pull on or scrape the putty with these tools can help increase strength in the forearm as well. They provide the ability to increase function in the muscles other than slight pinches or pushes. Any types of tools, however, should be used after patients have made progress with preceding exercises.