What is Therapy Putty Made Of?

Therapy putty, also known as therapeutic putty or exerciser putty, has become a popular tool used by occupational therapists, physical therapists, teachers, and parents to help strengthen hands, fingers, and forearms. But what exactly is this moldable, stretchy putty made of?

The main ingredients in therapy putty are silicone and borosilicate glass. The silicone provides the bounce-back, stretchy texture that makes the putty so fun to knead and squeeze. The borosilicate glass gives the putty a smooth, doughy consistency that molds easily in your hands. Additional ingredients like coloring and scents are also sometimes added.

Silicone putty was first developed in the 1930s by Professor Earl Warrick at Princeton University. He was looking for an inexpensive substitute for rubber that had properties ideal for scientific experiments. The result was a moldable, stretchy putty that didn’t lose its shape or stick to surfaces. This silicone putty soon found popularity outside the lab as a fun toy for kids.

In the 1970s, occupational therapists discovered the benefits of silicone putty for improving hand and finger dexterity. They realized that kneading and squeezing the putty strengthened the muscles and joints of the hands and fingers. This helped patients recovering from injuries or diseases that affected their fine motor skills. Silicone putty was an ideal material because it provided resistance to squishing and stretching but wasn’t too hard on the hands.

The next evolution was the development of therapy putty designed specifically for therapeutic use. Borosilicate glass was added to silicone putty to give it a smooth, doughy texture ideal for therapeutic exercise. The putty was designed to be slightly tacky and moldable. This allowed a greater range of therapeutic exercises to strengthen finger, hand, and forearm muscles.

Today there are many brands of therapy putty available in varying resistance levels. Softer putty is ideal for children or patients with weaker hands and fingers. Firmer or “extra heavy” putty provides more resistance for adults and exercising stronger hands. There are also therapy putties designed specifically for increasing finger dexterity or exercising the muscles of the forearm used for writing.

Therapy putty comes in a variety of bright colors which make exercising more fun and engaging. Aromatherapy scents like lavender or vanilla are sometimes added to create a calming, soothing experience while squeezing the putty. This enhances the therapeutic benefits especially for patients with anxiety, stress, or sensory issues.

So while it may just look like a container of colorful, squishy goo, therapy putty is actually an ingenious tool carefully engineered to help rebuild strength and dexterity in the hands and fingers. The combination of stretchy silicone and moldable borosilicate glass particles gives therapy putty the ideal texture to provide therapeutic resistance for a wide range of exercises and users. With fun colors, scents, and applications designed just for kids, therapy putty turns necessary hand therapy exercises into an engaging, sensory experience.