Grip Strength

The measured ability to exert pressure with the hands and fingers. Many kinds of arthritis can cause a loss in grip strength, including osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

There are a number of devices on the market for measuring grip strength. Grip strength can be crudely measured by squeezing one or two of your doctor’s fingers. It may also be measured using a sphygmomanometer, or blood pressure monitor. Generally, a blood pressure cuff is folded into thirds and the pressure is pumped up to 20 mm Hg. You then squeeze the bulb that inflates the cuff, and your doctor takes note of how much the pressure is increased by the squeeze. A doctor might also have you squeeze a device specifically designed to measure grip strength called a dynometer. Measuring grip strength helps doctors evaluate the progression of conditions, such as RA, that affect the hands. Doctors may also check the grip strength of people with arthritis as part of a physical examination.

A loss of grip strength can make everyday tasks difficult. However, a number of assistive devices can help people with arthritis compensate for diminished grip strength. Doorknob grippers and jar openers are just a few of the many devices on the market for people whose hands have been affected by arthritis. Assistive devices can be purchased from many companies, including Aids for Arthritis (visit www.aidsforarthritis.com or call [800] 654-0707) and North Coast Medical (visit www.ncmedical.com or call [800] 821-9319).

Robert S. Dinsmoor is a medical writer and editor based in Massachusetts.

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