DIY Physical Therapy Ideas for My Broken Wrist
On the day after Christmas of this year, I broke my first bone in my nearly 60 years of life. I did it by being thrown by a horse.
Dealing with a broken bone below the poverty level in a red state that has refused to expand Medicaid is quite a challenge, but it is also an excellent way to find out who your friends are and to be surprised by how many you have. I am extremely grateful to the many wonderful friends and family members and people I have never met who have helped me cope with the challenges of this situation.
Getting an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon and getting some resolution for the treatment of my broken wrist was certainly a major challenge. Once I got the cast off my wrist, I faced a new challenge of attempting to regain strength, mobility, feeling, and function in my wrist and my hand.
It goes without saying that I could not afford physical therapy, and I really didn't think that I needed it. I am trained as a personal trainer, and I am fit and take great care to stay active and strong. I have also had quite a bit of experience working with seniors, and I developed a light workout program for seniors that several physical therapists have told me is "absolutely perfect."
Note About Trying This at Home
In this article, I'll describe some of the innovations that I have come up with and discuss the exercises that I do. I want to be sure you understand that I am not telling you to do this. I am not a doctor, and in no way recommend this to you. If you break a bone and you are able to see a physical therapist, you should do so! I am just describing what I'm doing and telling you how it's working for me!
Practicing Fine Motor Skills Is Harder Than You'd Think!
I actually just put together this fine motor set a couple of days ago. I realized that my wrist was becoming more flexible and my fingers are getting stronger, but my little finger and my ring finger especially are lacking strength and ability. Also, I realized that I'm not able to do things like pick up a utensil and eat using my right hand, so I gathered a few things together that I thought would help me gain those abilities.
- The box is filled with rice with a couple of tablespoons of popping corn mixed in. I sort the popping corn out of the rice using each of my fingers and thumb alternately. So I'll begin by picking up a kernel of corn between my index finger and thumb then move to middle finger and thumb, ring finger and thumb, little finger and thumb and back again. I can tell the difference in strength and ability from the beginning of the exercise to the end.
- The egg carton has pecans and plastic bread bag tabs in it. I remove them from the egg carton cups using alternating fingers and thumb. Then I pick them up from the tabletop and replace them. This is harder than it sounds!
- I use the towel for a wringing exercise that actually strengthens the hands and wrists. I also lay it out flat on the table and gather it up from one end to the other using my fingertips. Alternately, I hold it out at arms' length between my index finger and thumbs and gather it up into a ball using only my fingertips.
- I roll the can from one end of the table to the other pulling it with my fingertips and then pushing it back with the heel of my hand. This helps strengthen my fingertips and also helps with wrist flexion.
Variety In Size And Texture Of Tools Is Very Helpful
I've gathered this set together gradually. I started out with the egg-shaped hand exercise balls which I bought specifically for this purpose, but they actually turned out to be useless right after I had the cast off because I could not close my hand enough to be able to squeeze them. It's just been within the last couple of days that I've been able to squeeze the softest one at all.
I got the Pinky rubber ball and the Play-Doh at the local Dollar General. The pinky ball is actually not useful to me yet because I just can't squeeze that hard, but it will be. Play-Doh has been very helpful! I could feel a big difference in the abilities of my hand after the first time that I used it, but it did make my hand hurt quite a bit at first. I still need to use my left hand to help my right-hand squeeze hard enough to make much of an impression on the Play-Doh, but I'm getting stronger.
I had the multicolored ball and the Chinese exercise balls on hand already. The multicolored ball is actually a dog toy that I got at the Dollar Tree a long time ago for working with seniors in the assisted-living home where I worked. It's very good for rubbing between my hands and helping bring back feeling and sensation in my palm.
I couldn't use the Chinese exercise balls at all at first because I couldn't close my hand enough to hold them and I also couldn't hold my hand flat enough to keep them from rolling off. Now I can balance them on the palm of my hand and I can use them a little bit with the help of my left hand. I can also roll one of them between my fingers and thumb and this is very helpful.
I just added the 1 pound weight a couple of days ago. I got this set of walking weights with Velcro straps at the Dollar Tree a long time ago. The straps help prevent me from dropping the weights! I do wrist lifts with my palm up and also with my palm facing down. I also work on wrist flexion from side to side.
I use rubber bands to work on finger strength. I place the band over the tips of all five fingers and stretch for about 20 repetitions. Following that, I placed the rubber band over each individual finger and the thumb and do about 20 stretches per finger.
Good Exercise For Both Hands!
Keeping My Hand Moving Prevents Stiffness!
I use the Play-Doh and the one-pound weight the same way at my computer as I do when I'm watching TV. The rubber bands that I have by my computer are a little bit different because the large ones are a little bit stronger and more challenging. The smaller ones offer a different challenge when exercising individual fingers and thumb.
The hair clip is especially difficult to use, which is why I don't use it as a hair clip anymore! It does make a great exerciser for my fingers though!
The Koosh ball is easy to use pretty mindlessly almost all the time while I'm working. It also makes a nice palm rest when my hands get tired. It's another Dollar Tree find!
I am also beginning to be able to type a little bit again, so I try to alternate using Dragon and typing is much as possible.
Repurposed Exercise Equipment Adds Resistance and Therapy Opportunities
Before I go to bed every night I do the light total body workout routine that I devised for the seniors I worked with when I was the life enrichment coordinator at an assisted living facility. It's sort of a combination of the yoga series of poses called the Sun Salutation, Synergetics and a few other types of stretches and light strengthening exercises.
I wasn't able to do this while I had the cast on, but as soon as it was off I started up again and added some exercise equipment I had on hand that I thought would provide more challenge and strengthening for my wrist and hand.
The blue C-shaped tool you see at the right is called a Pocket Gym. It's designed to work with a type of exercise called Synergetics that is also a great, no impact total body workout. I hold the Pocket Gym between my two hands and use it to provide both pushing and pulling resistance. Because it is fairly large around, lightweight and soft to the touch, I was able to start using it right away after I had the cast off.
The same goes for the swimming pool barbell, which I began using to do wrist exercises before I was able to support even a one-pound weight. Now I can also use standard one pound weights because my wrist is able to support the weight, and my fingers are able to hold the weight pretty well; although I do drop it from time to time! There are some exercises I can do holding both one-pound weights in my right hand.
Pocket Gym Made It Easy For Me To Return To Exercise Right Away!
My Broken Wrist And Its Progress So FarClick thumbnail to view full-size
Overall I'm pretty pleased with the way that my do-it-yourself physical therapy for my wrist and hand has worked out. There are still many things that I'm not able to do, and I worry that I may never be able to do things like hammer a nail or carry a 50-pound bag of feed again, but I plan to keep working on it.
I've really found a lot of positive inspiration from the young man, Peter, whose video appears below. I found this series of videos by looking up "quadriplegic hand therapy" because I have worked with quads in the past, and remembered that hand therapy and exercise is very important for them.
In this video, Peter tells us that just seven months ago he was injured and became a quadriplegic. Now here he is making knowledgeable and very useful videos to help other quadriplegics get good hand function! He certainly sets a good example of making the best of a difficult situation!
I do find that every day I am able to do a little bit more, and I take heart in the fact that I have always been healthy and physically capable. I think that my program has been successful so far, and I hope that I'll be able to make a fairly full recovery. If not, I'm sure I'll be able to cope!
Hand Stretches For Quadriplegics
A Versatile, Durable Night Brace
Two Years Later
I would say that my recovery is complete; although, my wrist is still crooked, and I do still have some pain from time-to-time. I am able to hammer nails, type, use sign language, fingerspell and carry a 50-pound bag of feed. I still do some wrist exercises, and I wear a night brace to rest my wrist and keep it warm while I sleep. If I don't do that, I experience some pain and stiffness.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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