overview of hand therapy tools and massagers

18 Best Hand Therapy, Massage Tools for Pain Relief, Recovery, Athletes

Last Updated on December 10, 2020 by hobbr.com

The human hand is a miracle of evolution: it’s a body part unique to primates which gives us an incredible level of dexterity. Our super-sensitive fingers and opposable thumbs have allowed mankind to develop everything from writing to surgery.

But with 27 bones, 48 major nerves, and over 120 ligaments in the hand, there’s a lot that can go wrong in a very small body part. Health conditions like arthritic hands or carpal tunnel can have a huge knock-on effect on a person’s quality of life. You don’t realize how much you use your hands until they start to hurt.

If you’re lucky enough to have healthy hands, keep them that way. There are all types of hand therapy tools available, from hand massagers to heated pads, and each offers different benefits.

Some items are designed to develop your dexterity and increase your grip strength, and are suitable whether you’re a power lifter trying to get up to 300lb or you’re a stroke patient working to regain your mobility.

Other items are designed for hand pain relief rather than strength building, and these are great to treat arthritic joints or tendinitis.

Some people prefer a calming treatment, like gently warming their hands in steam or relaxing with a heated pad. Others prefer a more active form of physical therapy, using hand therapy tools like stress balls and wrist trainers.

Whatever your needs, the best hand rehabilitation equipment is whichever one you enjoy and will use regularly. Motivation leads to repetition, and repetition leads to recovery.

Different types of physical hand therapy tools

Essentially there are three groups of hand therapy tools that can be used to increase strength, enhance rehab, and treat pain caused by carpal, arthritis, etc.

  1. manual hand therapy tools and balls
  2. hand massage tools and machines
  3. compression gloves

 

1. Traditional wooden Thai reflexology hand massagers

The human hand gives us a level of dexterity almost unrivalled in the animal kingdom. And yet, what do you use your hands for every day? Typing? Texting? Opening door handles?

Most people use only a fraction of their hands’ range of motion, and overexert certain muscles by making unnatural movements like using a computer mouse. The most effective hand therapy tools work with the natural motion of your hand to build up less used-muscles.

These star-shaped wooden toys are a traditional Thai hand massager, designed to be rolled between palms and flipped between your fingers. At first you might feel clumsy using them, but with use your hands will get stronger and your sensory awareness will develop, allowing you to do show-off things like roll them across the backs of your fingers. They’re also great for mindful fiddling if you’re prone to anxiety.

They’re entirely low-tech: a block of wood about the size of a golf ball with rounded corners to comfortably hit trigger points. The simple design means you can work your hands as hard or as gently as you want, whether you’re looking to build your range of motion for playing music or you need a gentle physical therapy tool to slow osteoarthritis.

 

2. SinLoon finger roller massager

works on fingers, hands, wrists and forearms
reliefs stress, reduces pain, removes knots

Sujok Therapy is an traditional Korean medical treatment using acupressure and acupuncture points on the hands and feet. Each part of the hand is said to correspond to another part of the body, so that – for example – problems with the heart and lungs can be eased by rubbing the base of the thumb.

Traditionally, sujok practitioners use different shaped seeds – round peppercorns, spiky sunflower seeds, wrinkly dried beans – to exert different types of pressure on the hand. This hand massager is designed to follow the principles of a traditional Sujok treatment, in a way that’s easy to treat yourself for hand pain relief.

Slip your fingers between the narrow rollers to boost blood flow and soothe tired joints, or squeeze the webbing between your thumb and forefinger.

 

3. D’Addario Varigrip adjustable hand exerciser

improve dexterity, strength
fitness for your fingers

We tend to overlook grip strength as a mark of fitness – opening stiff jars just isn’t as impressive as having sculpted abs or big guns. In fact, hand strength is a useful proxy for overall physical health: large-scale studies have shown that people with stronger grips tend to remain healthier for longer in old age (1) and have a lower risk of heart damage (2).

Athletes know that a strong grip is needed for everything from climbing to grappling to powerlifting. And for those with hand problems due to arthritis or injury, better grip strength can mean reduced pain and less risk of stretched ligaments.

This squeezable strengthener allows you to build strength from your fingertips to your wrist, and the tension can be adjusted for each finger individually – ideal for surgery recovery. It’s aimed at musicians, who need both strong hands and great dexterity.

4. Deep tissue hand massager

Deep tissue massage goes a step beyond a soothing spa massage. During a deep tissue massage, the practitioner uses firm pressure and focuses on areas of tension or pain, for a hurts-so-good treatment which relaxes not only the muscles but the tendons, ligaments, and fascia. It’s been used effectively in the treatment of osteoarthritis, and it’s famous as a treatment for athletic recovery.

This hand massager has adjustable tension to get just the right level of pressure, and the dimpled surface means it can hit all your trigger points. It’s great for carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive stress injuries. And it’s great for using at your desk if your hands get sore and stiff from typing at a computer all day.

5. Electric pressure massager

electric acupoint hand and finger massager with heat compression

Hand massage is a wonderfully relaxing treatment for tired or sore hands. If you work at a computer, you’re likely to feel soreness and stress in your hands and wrists by the end of the day.

An electric massager for hands helps to work out all that tension, one knuckle at a time. By slowly inflating, it gently squeezes the palm and fingertips, and the textured lining helps to boost circulation and enhance your sense of touch.

 

6. Hand therapy exercise balls

hand therapy exercise ball for stronger fingers and hands, to reduce stiffness and pain

One of the easiest ways to boost grip strength is by squeezing a firm rubber ball. There are variety of exercises you can do to focus on different areas of your hands – such as rolling the ball across a tabletop with your palm, or squeezing it sideways between two spread fingers to focus on less-used muscles.

It’s so simple that it hardly feels like a hand therapy tool at all, but these sorts of repetitive exercises can ease stiff joints and sore muscles, as well as building up increased strength in the hands and wrists.

The gentle pressure increases blood flow and is thought to slow osteoarthritis. Since you’re entirely in control of how much pressure is applied, there’s no risk of overtaxing or spraining your muscles.

This means it’s an exercise which can be used equally by athletes trying to improve their grip for powerlifting, or stroke patients trying to regain dexterity in recovery.

 

7. Massaging hand sauna

massaging hand sauna with infrared heat, vibration, and warm steam

From saunas to hot showers, people have long known that warm water is a great physical therapy for muscle and joint pain. Moist heat has been shown (3) to penetrate into deep tissues faster than dry heat, meaning that sitting in the steam room after a workout doesn’t just feel good but also helps to lessen the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness and speed athletic recovery.

Many people with problems like diabetic numbness or carpal tunnel syndrome find that warm water vapor makes their hands feel much more comfortable – but it can be tricky to find time for a trip to a steam room or a long hot bath every day. This combination of sauna and massager for hands creates a little pocket of steamy air to soothe each hand in turn, and also uses gentle vibration to boost blood flow and shake out muscle tension.

 

8. Hot paraffin wax spa bath

portable electric hot parafin wax spa bath for hands and feet

Paraffin wax baths are one of the most efficient ways to provide gentle all-over heat to stiff and sore hands. You soak your hands in a bowl of paraffin wax which has been melted and heated to about 45 degrees Celcius, roughly the temperature of a hot shower.

The treatment is commonly used to boost circulation and ease muscle soreness; medical studies have shown that using paraffin wax baths boosts the efficacy of exercises for rheumatoid arthritis and stiffness due to injury (4).

Paraffin wax baths are usually only found in spas and medics’ offices, but this portable electric paraffin heater means you can give yourself regular treatments at home. Making it a great device to treat arthritis, carpal tunnel, tendinitis, and stretched ligaments without having to go out the door.

 

9. Copper compression gloves

copper compression gloves help improve dexterity while supporting stiff and sore muscles and joints

Copper is one of the crucial minerals the body uses to build connective tissue, and for that reason it’s thought that copper supplements or copper jewelry may help to ease the pain of joint conditions.

While evidence is still mixed on the benefits of wearing copper topically, many people with arthritis swear by it (wait and see the Amazon reviews), and as it has no known side-effects it’s something you can combine safely with any conventional treatment.

These gloves contain copper ions and are made from close-fitting compression fabric, which squeezes and supports the joints in the same way as an athlete’s knee strapping. They can be worn overnight or during the day.

10. Hand therapy putty

improve fine motor skils, strengten hand muscles, relief stress

 

Squeeze, stretch, pinch, twist, or roll: therapy putty can be moved in any direction to perfectly match the parts of your hand which need to be worked.

It’s also great fun to play with, and you’ll probably find you do more exercises and work your hands for longer because squishing the putty between your fingers feels so satisfying.

Putty exercises are especially recommended for patients with dementia, who often shake or twitch and may feel more relaxed when holding something to fidget with.

 

11. Non-chiming stainless steel Chinese baoding balls

Chinese hand therapy balls for exercise and stress relief

Baoding balls are hand therapy massage tools traditionally used in China as an aid to meditation and focus. They are simple steel balls which are rolled around in the hand, using the fingers and muscles of the palm to slowly rotate them.

The Chinese hand therapy balls are recommended by hand therapists as using them can improve power and dexterity thus managing conditions such as arthritis.

They’re a popular treatment for anxiety and stress, since the technique is just tricky enough to hold your focus, while still being simple enough that you can do it while watching TV. They can also help you quit bad habits such as smoking by keeping your hands busy.

The balls help to boost dexterity and fine motor skills, and as you gain confidence working with the balls, you can try more advanced tricks, like trying to turn them backwards or roll one of the balls onto the back of your hand.

12. Tactile, sensory hand therapy toy

occupy your hands to deal with anxiety, train your hands to improve dexterity and or strength

If you’re prone to anxiety or struggle to focus, you may find that having something to play with helps to keep you mindful and present. This hand therapy massage tool is a loop of textured rubber which can fold and bend over itself, in a way that’s incredibly satisfying to roll between your fingers.

It’s great to keep in your pocket if you’re trying to quit a bad habit like smoking or nail-biting – just having something to do with your hands can break that cycle of mindlessly doing something you know you shouldn’t.

Tactile, sensory play, also known as fidgeting is known to relief stress, especially for people with anxiety such as dementia patients as it allows them to distract themselves when they suffer from psycho-motor agitation.

It’s also great for restoring motion to injured joints, and helps to boost dexterity in stroke patients or people who have suffered injuries.

 

13. Hot compress infrared passive training hand massager

passive electric hand training device to combat spasms and after effects of stroke

Heat therapy has been used on injuries since time immemorial, and far infrared therapy is a new twist on an old treatment. It uses infrared heat with a very specific wavelength to penetrate and warm tissues deep inside the body.

Although the exact mechanism isn’t yet fully understood, peer-reviewed studies (5) have shown that it’s an effective treatment for some chronic conditions.

Using far infrared on your hands is thought to ease painful conditions like carpal tunnel, as well as easing soreness due to surgery recovery.

This massager for hands uses far infrared heat to soothe sore hands, along with a textured ball and set of finger grips which make it suitable for people who have spasms and tremors due to stroke or dementia.

 

14. Heated vibration hand massager

heated vibration massager for hands and other body parts

 

Poor circulation is associated with a host of different hand conditions, from diabetic numbness to skin problems like eczema.

Poor circulation is a vicious cycle: when the skin is cold, blood vessels constrict and blood flow reduces; but when there’s less blood flow to the surface of the skin, it makes you feel colder.

The best way to break this cycle is with heat and massage, and these long gloves provide both.

 

15. Warming and cooling therapy glove

cooling and heating for arthritis pain relief and more forms of hand therapy

Both heating and cooling have benefits for treating pain. Cooling an area down is great for swelling or inflammation due to injury, taking away muscle soreness due to exercise or overexertion.

Heating is better for easing the pain of chronic conditions, such as stretched ligaments or to treat arthritic joints. This therapy glove can be used hot or cold, in order to provide hand rehabilitation for a wide range of conditions.

 

16.  Tens unit

Tens Units can be excellent hand therapy devices

TENS stands for transcutaneous nervous stimulation – essentially, you attach electrodes to your skin around the site of the pain, and a machine gives you an electrical buzz that penetrates through your skin. Most people feel a slight tingling sensation in their muscles, usually followed by a relief of pain.

A Tens Unit can be used on hands to treat rheumatoid arthritis, compressed nerves, wrist osteoarthritis, or fasciitis among other conditions. (6)

It’s a drug-free intervention which is popular for all sorts of muscle and joint pain, from tendinitis to arthritic hands: try putting one electrode on each side of your hand, front and back.

TENS machines come with a variety of settings, from a gentle buzz to the ‘acupuncture-style’ treatments which deliver strong shocks. The machine itself is small and light, and there’s no known case of overuse, so you can clip it to your belt and wear it throughout the day if needed.

 

17. Gyroscope ball

gyroscopic therapy ball
get a grip on wrist pain, (sports) injuries, and increase strength and dexterity

Gyro balls are popular as toys, as well as exercise and rehabilitation tools. Train with a power ball to increase your finger, grip, wrist, and elbow strength. Use them while you’re doing sedentary work, to combat the adverse effects of prolonged sitting, as they stretch out tight forearms and give you a good quick workout.

The inner rotating motion forces you to hold the ball tight while you’ll be making small adjustments. This results in a powerful local workout that can even cause you to break a sweat.

They seem to be effective rehab tools after surgery as they are known to enhance hand or wrist recovery, increase range of motion (ROM), reduce post-op pain levels, and help you regain strength.

Spinner balls rehabilitate various types of upper limb pain syndrome, a.k.a. RSI including tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, wrist tendonitis.

Read the NSD spinner reviews to learn more.

 

18. Dmoose Flex Bar

twist, turn, bend to get stronger healthier hands and under arms

The Dmoose resistance bar can be used to train hand, wrists, and elbows making it a popular tool to treat golf or tennis elbow as well as in stroke recovery. Other common uses include; workout warm-up, forearm trainer, increasing post-op grip, after injury such as bone fractures, or simply to improve grip and arm flexibility.

By stretching your extensors and strengthening your flexors you’re effectively training your whole underarm, from the fingers to the elbow.

The flex bars come in 4 color-coded resistance levels (from 6lbs to 25lbs) and with only 3 minutes of practicing per day you’ll notice considerable improvement in strength, grip, dexterity, and pain relief, according to users.

Get it here.

 

References

  1. Grip Strength as an Indicator of Health-Related Quality of Life in Old Age. PubMed.
  2. Hand grip strength may be associated with cardiac function and structure. Science Daily.
  3. Moist Heat or Dry Heat for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. PubMed.
  4. Efficacy of Paraffin Wax Bath with and without Joint Mobilization Techniques in Rehabilitation of post-Traumatic stiff hand. NCBI.
  5. Far-infrared therapy for cardiovascular, autoimmune, and other chronic health problems: A systematic review. NCBI.
  6. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in the hand. PubMed.