The Towel Handgrip

If you have hand weakness, you may benefit from physical therapy to help strengthen the muscles around your forearm, hand and fingers.  Your PT will likely use specific modalities, like NMES, to help improve the way your muscles work.

He or she may also use therapy putty to perform exercises that help strengthen your fingers and hand.

Common problems that may lead to hand weakness include:

  • Stroke
  • Colles' fracture
  • Smith's fracture
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cervical radiculopathy

You may also develop hand weakness if you are required to spend time wearing a sling while a shoulder injury or surgery is healing.

One simple exercise that your physical therapist may prescribe for you to do is the towel handgrip exercise.  This exercise can help strengthen the muscles that help you grip and lift items.  Here is how you do it.

  1. Obtain a kitchen or bath hand towel.
  2. Fold the towel in half lengthwise.
  3. Roll the towel up so it is shaped like a small cylinder.
  4. Grip the towel in one hand.
  5. Firmly squeeze the towel in your hand, and hold the pressure on the towel for 5 seconds.
  6. Relax, and then repeat the exercise for 10 to 15 repetitions.

You can perform the exercise once or twice a day, but be sure to check in with your doctor or physical therapist before starting this, or any other, exercise program to make sure it is safe for your specific condition.

One of the benefits of the towel handgrip exercise is that it can be done with things you already have around the house and you don't need any special exercise equipment.  Just grab a towel and get to work.  Another benefit: very little motion occurs at your fingers and hands, so it is perfect to do if you have rheumatoid arthritis or any other joint deformity in the hands.

If you have weakness in your forearm, fingers, or hand, you can easily start working on improving your strength.  Grab a towel, roll it up, and start doing the towel handgrip exercise to quickly and safely get back to normal handgrip function.

- By Brett Sears, Physical Therapy expert

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