Strengthening your arm or hands after a stroke is helpful for both pain treatments and the prevention of further injury. There are therapies that you might help you strengthen your arm.
Strengthening your arm or hands after a stroke is helpful for both pain treatments and the prevention of further injury. There are therapies that you might help you strengthen your arm.

A stroke occurs when a part of your brain gets blocked or clogged up for some time. This leads to a deprivation of oxygen in your brain, which can kill blood vessels or cause bleeding. Often, strokes will have quite severe and long-lasting effects. One area such effects can occur is in your upper extremities like your arms or your hand.

What kind of arm care will I get after a stroke?

Strokes usually create paralysis or weakness in your muscles. Often, in your arms, this can be in your shoulder or throughout the arm. You could either experience your muscles tightening up or being far too loose. 

The shoulder can be one of the most challenging areas in your body to rehabilitate post-stroke. That is because it is a joint that brings together three different bones. Having issues with the muscles in your arm can lead to your shoulder joint experiencing a great deal of stress. So, even if you do not experience shoulder issues at first, you may start to experience arm pain later on.

Should you experience shoulder issues, you may encounter an incredible amount of pain. In addition, these issues can affect your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which will affect your range of motion in a big way. You may not be able to move your hands or arms very well, and the muscles around your shoulder can be shortened.

What are the benefits of strengthening my arm or hand after a stroke?

Strengthening your arm or hands after a stroke is helpful for both pain treatments and the prevention of further injury. However, even if you only have minor pain, it is essential to start stroke recovery therapy immediately. 

You should learn about different treatment plans or about the program that your healthcare providers are planning on treating you with. Most likely, you will work with a physiatrist and a physical therapist. Both of these healthcare providers specialize in rehabilitative. They can teach exercises for strength, endurance, and mobility. 

You may need to engage in these arm and hand exercises for stroke rehab simply for a matter of weeks, but it may also take longer than that. Expect to be in physical therapy for as long as it takes not to feel any symptoms. There is an incredible variance in how strokes can affect people, so make sure to check in regularly with your healthcare providers as you treat your stroke symptoms.

What exercises should I do to strengthen my arms and hands post-stroke?

The most crucial goal of your treatment will always be to prevent damage to your shoulder joint. In your therapies for post-stroke treatment, your healthcare providers will show you how to move your shoulder joint in a way that won’t injure your shoulder. Don't let anyone pull on your arm.

Alongside your physical therapy or other types of treatments, you may want to use support devices. These could include a stand that you can use to help you stand up, or they might take the form of a sling, harness, special pillows, or even a wheelchair.

Some of the therapies you might do to strengthen your arm:

  • Constraint-induced movement therapy. This therapy will focus on building strength and exercising the arm or hand affected by your stroke. You will not do any of the movements with your other hand. This can be done with a therapist or even a robot. 
  • Botulinum toxin injections. You may get these injections in order to release the muscles in your affected arm or hand chemically. 
  • Electrical stimulation of muscles. If you experience a weakening in your arm or shoulder muscles, your healthcare providers may suggest treating you with electricity to strengthen those muscles. 
  • Electrical therapy in the brain. Because strokes take place in the brain, sometimes treating the brain directly can help alleviate other symptoms. This can often be done in conjunction with different types of rehabilitation exercises. 
  • Motor imagery. This is therapy in which you are asked to visualize or look at the motion of the affected area of your body. Simply imagining the mobility that you could once do helps your brain to activate in particular ways and heal you faster.
  • Biofeedback exercises. These are exercises in which your provider will place electrodes on your muscles, generating a signal. These signals help to activate your muscles. The activation of your muscle can then help you regain lost muscle mass and mobility. However, the effectiveness of this therapy is hotly debated. 


What is a stroke? See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 11/2/2021

Cochrane: “EMG biofeedback for the recovery of motor function after stroke.”


Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Arm Care After a Stroke.”

Saint Luke’s: “Arm Care After a Stroke.”

University of Rochester Medical Center: “Arm Care After a Stroke.”