Remember playing around with Silly Putty when you were a kid? (Maybe you still do; it’s a fun toy!) A similar kind of putty is available to assist in strengthening hand muscles and it is a very valuable and efficient tool for helping children develop strong grips, the elderly with loss of hand strength, and those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Hand putty or occupational therapy putty can also be used in conjunction with related exercises to help reduce symptoms of RA and improve hand function.
Therapeutic putty is a non-toxic and non-flammable substance that is malleable but not sticky, which makes it very versatile for everything from a safe children’s toy to developing motor skills to a variety of medical prescriptions. Let’s look closer at this flexible putty treatment.
How does occupational therapy putty work?
The biggest advantage of therapy putty over other options such as stress balls is putty’s malleability. You don’t have to squeeze it hard in order to glean results; it can be rolled, squeezed or pinched with your choice of aggressive or gentle pressure. Since putty is so pliable, it allows full range of motion at different resistance levels.
Therapy putty is available in a range of strengths, or densities, from extra soft to extra firm. Most brands offer three to five different strengths, allowing the user to give their joints a very challenging “workout” or one that is steady but with less pressure. The putty can also be broken into smaller pieces and used for isometric exercises including squeezing small balls between fingers while keeping the fingers straight.
Therapy putty’s role in improving range of motion and muscle strength
Another tremendous advantage of therapy putty for seniors is improving range of motion in hand joints, as well as increasing muscle strength. Softer therapy putties are particularly useful for range of motion exercises. Range of motion is of course critical for everyday needs that require opening and closing of the hand, such as balling your fist prior to putting on a coat, lifting objects, and gripping a mug of coffee.
Experts recommend developing a putty therapy routine based on your needs and ability. For example, if you start using a particular putty density but develop pain or stiffness in hands or fingers; take a step down to a softer putty. If you feel good after using it a few times, move up to a more challenging density. A general rule of thumb for people with rheumatoid arthritis is to stay at medium resistance or lower in order to avoid pain flares in joints. However, if you are ready for a stronger option, chill the putty in a refrigerator for a more significant therapy as the putty gradually warms.
How to get the best use from therapy putty
Therapy is very affordable (typically less than $15) and readily available from medical supply stores, pharmacies, and online sources. When using the putty, remember to return it to its container immediately after every exercise session. If you happen to drop the putty on carpet or clothing, it can be difficult to wash out. Keep it out of hot sun (inside of a car, for example) as it will rapidly turn to liquid and lose its integrity.
Therapy doesn’t dry out and turn to balls of stone like play putty and will typically last for years, but it can attract dirt or sand that won’t feel good on your hands.
Therapy putty exercises targeting rheumatoid arthritis
If you or someone you know suffers from RA, try therapy putty exercises such as rolling the putty back and forth until it forms a “hot dog” and rolling a small ball between thumb and index finger.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.