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Getting a grip on hand strength

Hand Strength is an important but often overlooked aspect of overall strength within the body. It incorporates multiple different and long reaching structures within the hand and forearm which must work in harmony to allow the most precise, yet strong movements within the body. It is also one of the least identified problems within the general population since it usually comes on slowly and refers pain to areas higher in the arm. This blog post aims to educate you as to how to identify if you have a grip strength issue, and what may be contributing to the issue.

Hand motion must be both fluid and mobile, as well as supported and rigid depending on the function needed. Structurally, the wrist joint is the main contributor to the fluidity and motion of the hand. The joint is made up of two rows of four carpal (wrist) bones with ligaments between them. These bones are oriented in such a way that the motions of flexion and extension (bending back and forwards) is the most comprehensive, followed by lateral flexion (bending side to side) and then rotation (majority of rotation occurs at the elbow through the radioulnar joint). Because of this, when the hand is required to lock down the wrist to grip tightly, it is having to become less mobile and more rigid, which is difficult with high mobility joints. This means that the wrist has to find the most stable position to facilitate the gripping motion. This motion is extension to about 30 degrees. However, this is just the first step in preparation of the hand for gripping.

The next gripping step is undertaken by the wrist extensor group of muscles. Once the stimulus is sent from the brain to the hand to grip tightly, it also sends a reflexive message to the wrist extensors telling them to engage and extend the wrist. This is something that is done almost automatically and subconsciously without you realising it. Try it! Lay your hand flat on a flat surface and then grip quickly. You will notice that your wrist has gone from a neutral position to being cocked back slightly to around 30 degrees and you didn't even realise that you did it. This extension of the wrist puts it into a position which stabilises it optimally and allows the highest amount of force to be exerted.

Lastly, and most importantly, the final step is the curling of the fingers into the grip position. This incorporates both the smaller intricate muscles of the hand as well as the longer flexor muscles of the forearm which control larger flexion movements of the hand and fingers. Without this step, the preparation would be for nothing as the fingers would not grip around the object.

Something to contemplate however is that with all of these joints and muscles being used in the motion of gripping, does it then make sense that overuse of these areas may start to cause discomfort or weakness in the act of gripping? Occupations which involve heavy manual work, operators and drivers, as well as office workers all use gripping muscles and joints fairly regularly and commonly have discomfort and tenderness in both the wrist joint and the muscles around the inside and outside of the forearm and elbow. These are very common issues which are managed by chiropractors due to their expertise in joint and muscle-based issues, and our team at Anderson Family Chiropractic Mackay has plenty of experience in the treatment and relief of wrist and elbow issues. If you find that you would like to learn more about any issues which are bothering you and causing pain or weakness, feel free to contact us to organise an appointment with our Chiropractors on 4942 6930.

Botelho, M. B., & Andrade, B. B. (2012). Effect of cervical spine manipulative therapy on judo athletes' grip strength. ​Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics ​ , ​35 ​ (1), 38–44.


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