A Firm Grip on Things

Grip strength is fast becoming a very reliable indicator of health in many ways. It is widely known and accepted to be a good indicator of heart health and increasing your grip strength with exercises can even help reduce your blood pressure.

Furthermore, grip strength is very important for the over all function of the hand. It is estimated that a loss of hand function represent a loss of about 90% use of the upper limb and if you think about all the doorknobs we grasp and the jam jars we open every day then that number starts to make some sense. A firm handshake could even make or break a business deal in some circles!

Grip strength translates as a good measure of overall strength and large studies done in groups of children show that this effect correlates well with many age groups. Many police services and militaries around the world use grip strength tests as part of their entry because its such an easy way to get an overall indicator of a persons strength and health.

In the clinical setting we have noticed that uneven grip strength can lead to muscle strains, if you are lifting weights or rowing or doing pull ups and one hand can take a lot more load than the other then one arm is very likely to be more loaded than the other this could lead to repetitive strain injuries over time.

Sometimes we find that post operatively, eg after shoulder surgeries and injection procedures, the nerves that activate your forearm muscles can be injured which can lead to loss of grip strength. This important to assess and recover as it can slow down recovery time as a whole. It can prevent a patient from resuming their normal activities and this can lead to to an overall loss of health and productivity.

If you think you have uneven or poor grip strength it is simple to measure in clinic and scores can be compared to normal data compiled for age, sex and handedness. We don’t expect a 6 year old girl using her left to be as strong as a 30 year old man on his right side! But if there is a big difference in strength side to side or both are way below par then it might be a good idea to check out why.

A range of exercises and treatments are available once the cause of any loss of strength is identified and then patients can get back to their normal activities in a proper time frame.