A common symptom of Parkinson’s disease is loss of dexterity, or controlled movement, in the hands. The severity of symptoms ranges from person to person, but even the most impacted individual may benefit from a variety of targeted hand exercises.
Why Does PD Impact Dexterity?
Parkinson’s is a progressive neurodegenerative disease, meaning that it slowly impacts the brain’s ability to send signals to the body over time.
While scientists are still researching the cause of Parkinson’s, it is widely recognized that many PD symptoms are due to the loss of dopamine receptors in the brain. One of the ways this manifests is by impacting fine motor skills, including gripping, grasping, and utilizing the fingers, hands, and wrists.
People living with PD may experience stiffness and rigidity in their hands, bradykinesia (slowed movement), or shaking from tremors. This can compromise daily movements such as buttoning a shirt, typing on a keyboard, and writing with a pen or pencil.
Do Hand Exercises Help with PD?
Daily hand exercises for Parkinson’s are paramount to target and reduce symptoms, increase function and mobility, and improve overall quality of life.
Consider the following hand exercises to help improve grip strength and dexterity.
Best Exercises for Hand Tremors & Dexterity
There are a variety of hand exercises you may incorporate into your daily routine to encourage hand, wrist, and finger mobility. An ideal time to do these is before breakfast, when you can “warm your hands up” for the day.
While these exercises are a great place to start, we recommend consulting with your healthcare provider for the most tailored exercises to your symptoms.
Tight Fist Exercise
- Start with your arms bent at a 90-degree angle in front of your body and palms facing up.
- Clench your hands into tight fists for a few seconds
- Extend your arms out and release your grip, fully stretching out your fingers to face away from your body, as if pushing against a wall.
- Pull your hands back into fists, wrists rotated upward, next to your body.
- Repeat 20 times.
Alternatively, use a stress ball to repeatedly clench your hand into a tight fist. Hold for 10 seconds, release, and repeat 20 times on each hand.
Thumb Extension Exercise
Thumb mobility is critical for gripping and lifting heavier objects. For this exercise, utilize a rubber band to strengthen thumb dexterity.
Wrap the rubber band around your hand at the base of your fingers and thumb. Slowly move your thumb away from your fingers and hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat ten times on each hand.
Finger Tap Exercise
Create an “O” with your fingers by pressing the fingerpad of your index finger to the fingerpad of your thumb. Repeat with your middle finger, ring finger, and pinky finger. Reverse the direction of the taps, being sure to fully and firmly extend your fingers in between taps. Complete two full rounds of taps (20 total).
Wrist Extension Exercise
Extend your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height, palms outstretched as if pushing against a wall. From here, bend your wrists down so that your fingers point toward the floor, then bend your wrists back up to the starting position. Repeat 20 times.
Wrist stretches aid in keeping your tendons and ligaments flexible and help to reduce tremors.
Finger Curl Exercise
With your hands held up and facing out, curl your fingers and thumb down at the same time so that the tips of your fingers touch the top of the pad of your hands. In this exercise, you are not making a fist, but rather a “bear claw” shape with your fingers. Fully extend your fingers back out. Repeat 20 times.
You may incorporate a similar exercise after this. Instead of bending your fingers toward the top of the pads of your hands, reach your fingers as far as possible down your palm (give your thumb a break on this one by keeping it extended). Squeeze, and then open your fingers back out. Repeat 20 times.
Forearm Rotation Exercise
Using light dumbbells or simply your hands in light fists, grip a weight in each hand and rotate your forearms so your palms are facing up. Slowly curl the weights to your shoulders, then rotate back to the beginning position so the weights face down. Repeat 20 times.
Practicing Hand Mobility for Symptom Relief
When treating PD symptoms, even the simplest exercises may be hugely beneficial to encourage improved finger, hand, and wrist dexterity.
Start your day by taking 10 minutes to practice a hand-strengthening routine, and always consult your physician before starting a new routine.