August 31, 2016

Cooking is Therapy for My Hand

Cooking is good therapy for the hand because many tasks have to be done with both hands.
Below are a few examples of kitchen tasks that force me to use my hemiplegic hand.

I am not the only one who thinks cooking is good therapy for the hand.  OTs at Samuel Merritt University developed a treatment program for stroke survivors that includes preparing lunch and cleaning up the kitchen (1).  The group that was helped to use both hands during cooking activities used their hemiplegic hand more often at home than the group who received constraint-induced therapy.  Cognitive research shows that transferring skills to a new setting is more likely to happen when the practice task closely resembles the target task.

The photo shows me holding a Cuisinart container with one hand while the other hand scrapes out the food that always sticks to the side of the container. 

Two more examples - One hand holds a pot still while the other hand stirs the food.  One hand opens the refrigerator door and the other hand takes food off a shelf.  

The photo gives you an idea of how many times I had to sit down to squeeze jars and bottles between my thighs to remove the cap when my hemiplegic hand was flaccid.  Now I reach out and hold the container still with my hemiplegic hand while my sound hand turns the lid.   

A stroke taught me many Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) use a palmar grasp which is holding an object with the sides of the fingers.  In the photo my fingertips are not in contact with the object or with each other.  Why wait to use your hand until tip pinch emerges when a palmar grasp allows able-bodied adults to do many ADLs that need to be done thousands of times?

1.  Hayner, K., Gibson, G., & Giles, G. (2010).  Comparison of constraint-induced movement
     therapy and bilateral treatment of equal intensity in people with chronic upper-extremity
     dysfunction after cerebrovascular accident.  American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 64(4),


  1. This is very good. I am going to print it out and read it to my Stroke group. We meet weekly but are having these monthly cooking/ social lunch events. Someone, who I thought was a little more aware, made a comment about all the eating going on. I wasn't all that fast coming up with a response about how these events are so very much more.

  2. I would love to see you share this post. Presenting to stroke support groups shows me that many stroke survivors and caregivers come up with creative ideas. If we don't share our ideas we are taking them to our grave.

  3. There are a lot of things I can't do in the kitchen because of my right arm/hand. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get that much back yet. Even so, working in the kitchen is good therapy. It makes me feel like I've accomplished something when I cook. For that matter, even when I clean the kitchen. It looks and feels it.

  4. I know what you mean. Loading the dishwasher and cleaning off the counter tops just before I go to bed is very soothing.

  5. Just reading this post now. Yes, cooking has been great therapy. Cutting my son's food into tiny, nonchoking size pieces was quite a challenge with my left hand not working. I also found on several occasions going to grab hot things out of the oven with no mit...not sure why. I know its hot, but it doesn't always come together and I burned myself several times. Thankfully not too badly. Darn this cognitive crap.

  6. Elizabeth, I know what you mean about cognition. I am independent in the kitchen but I'm slow. I have to do a cooking task dozens of times before it becomes automatic. There are so many things to remember to do. The first twenty times I do a task I have to think about every step - something I haven't had to do since I was Jack's age. It would be interesting to watch how hard Jack concentrates when he is doing something new.

  7. I really need to practice cooking more. It takes so much time, and makes me tired and frustrated - I'm not very good at making myself do it. But I've decided to make more of an effort to try.

  8. Cooking one-handed was so challenging that I started by eating one dish, like the vegetable, before I cooked the next dish. I still remember the first complete meal I got on the plate at one time. With repetition I don't have to think about what I'm doing any more. Don't give up.

  9. What was the first meal you cooked?

    1. It's been so long I don't remember other than it included canned gravy.