September 1, 2016

The Non-Dominant Hand Cries Out

The non-dominant hand cries out to be recognized as a full partner.  Unlike leg movements that often do the same motion (e.g. walking), the two hands have different roles.  I had to have a stroke to learn what a non-dominant hand does all day.  Adaptive devices like rocker knives draw a veil over the staggering number of times we use our non-dominant hand.  If you want to know what your non-dominant hand is doing when it is not texting read the list below.  DH = dominant hand.

        Hold shampoo bottle, toothpaste tube, and deodorant bottle so DH can open them
        Hold hair dryer so DH can run a brush through hair to style it
        Hold waistband of pants so DH can help pull pants up, zip, and put belt through belt loops
        Hold fork in meat so DH can maneuver knife to cut it
        Hold bottle of water or soda can so DH can open it
        Hold bottom of jacket or coat so DH can zip it
        Hold every bottle of medicine you have so DH can open them
        Hold objects you are carrying so DH can turn door knob to open a door

        Open refrigerator door so DH can put food in and take food out
        Hold milk container so DH can take cap off
        Hold pots, pans, and mixing bowls still so DH can stir the food
        Hold one handle of baking dish as DH holds other handle to place dish in oven
        Hold bottles of olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar, etc. so DH can take off caps
        Hold spice jars so DH can remove lids
        Hold banana, cucumber, carrot, and other food you want the DH to peel
        Hold onion, garlic, cilantro, and other food you want DH to chop
        Hold zip-lock bag and other food storage containers so SH can open them
        Hold folded-over edge of frozen food bag so DH can put on a food clip

I need two hands to open purchases that range from make-up to meat. People who can't use their hemiplegic hand resort to what I call the "Honey do" strategy.  Stroke survivors who are one-handed experience task disruption every time they get to the step in a task that requires two hands.

      Hold cord out of the way so you won't trip when DH uses the vacuum cleaner
      Hold lint trap of clothes dryer so DH can clean it
      Hold up shirt, pants, dress, etc. so DH can put clothes on hangers
      Hold corner of clean piece of laundry so DH can fold it

Pay Bills
        Hold wallet open so DH can take out money to pay cashier
        Hold envelope so DH can pull bill out and put return slip into the envelope
        Hold checkbook register open so DH can write check information
        Hold sheet of return stamps so DH can remove stamps and put them on envelope
        Hold several sheets of a bill in a neat stack so DH can staple them together
        Hold file folder open so DH can file away paid bills


  1. Great post! I got the double whamie. I was born left-handed. Now my only hand is the left hand. For writing, this is a blessing but having the DH being the one that has alway been dominant has prevented me from learning how to use a non-DH more. No matter how you slice it, it's a frustrating challenge.

  2. How true, For lots of these I use the teeth method, which is quite unsanitary. And I have to use DH to open 'bad' hand in order to get something into it. It does cause a lot of dropped items.

  3. My right side was affected and I have had to learn to use left hand. I like your list. There are a lot of times my hands have switched roles for now but I have refused to write with my left hand or make things just for my left hand. I keep trying! There are somethings I can do but others I cannot. I can tie shoelaces and my daughters but I cannot take caps off medicine or jars/bottles. I will keep trying!

  4. Sara, I began by putting objects on my lap (e.g. deoderant bottle) or pressing objects against my stomach (e.g. head of shower hose). When my body takes most of the weight of the object and I don't struggle to hold my hemiplegic arm far away from my body, it was easier for my hemi hand to hold an object still without dropping it.

  5. How true, how true!

    My hand and I have a battle every so often! You help me remember that I am not the only one!

    Thanks for that! - - Lori

  6. Some years ago I had frozen shoulder, and (unlike a previous FS on the other side) it wasn't clearing with PT. A movement therapist told me to 'ask her what she wants' ... and I had to ask who we were talking about. Up to that moment, I'd been thinking of my 'bad shoulder' as 'it' (wrong twice, you understand).

    The therapist guided me into a conversation where I sat alternately in two chairs, facing each other, and spoke both sides - in one chair as 'conscious self' and in the other as 'shoulder'.

    "So," I said, feeling foolish, "what do you want?"

    I moved to the other chair. What came forward was a diatribe - loud, fast, furious. "You never let me DO anything! The dominant hand gets to handle keys, open doors, paint, draw, write ... and all I get is carrying grocery bags! It's BORING!"

    Recalling this voice (and pleased that the 'frozen' part thawed in the next few months), I can say that not only do we not know what the NDH is doing, for the most part we have over-limited what it can do.

    Nowadays I draw with either hand, and am amazed at the interesting things my NDH wants to draw.

    Love, light and laughter

    1. Thanks for this poignant description of waking up.

    2. This is genius! Tough with limited communication or very exhausting communication but I love the idea and the response you describe!

  7. This was a wonderful and very helpful post. I have a patient with very good attention to passive ranging his non-dominent hand and can move elbow into extension and controlled release back into his flexion pattern. Started using more strategies for stabilization and hand transfer because we don't have active anything yet but he's been using less and less teeth strategies day to day. I really do appreciate your posts and all your helpful posts.

  8. OMG. You reminded me of the days when I counted the number of objects I had to put in my mouth.