An Occupational Therapist’s Favorite Grip Strength Exercises for MS

By Erica Patino
Reviewed by Dana Cooper, M.D.
December 30, 2022

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) may experience symptoms like muscle weakness, numbness, and tingling. These can cause problems throughout the body, including in the hands, which can lead to trouble with tasks like using a fork or knife, writing, and buttoning shirts, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS).

Hand challenges with MS primarily involve a loss of manual dexterity, says Barbara Giesser, M.D., a board-certified neurologist and MS specialist at Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “Weakness, loss of sensation, incoordination, and spasticity are all things that could impair our ability to use our hands,” she says. “If any of these were present during an acute attack of MS, we would give a short course of steroids. For more chronic problems, you would want to mostly use rehabilitative modalities.”

If grip strength is an issue for you, your neurologist or MS specialist can refer you to an occupational therapist (OT), who can teach you exercises to strengthen your grip and improve hand dexterity. In addition to making writing, eating, and dressing easier, performing MS grip strength exercises may help you with tasks such as gripping a chair to get up from it, or holding on to a cane or walker.