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What is Hand Strength?

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  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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Hand strength refers to the ability of the hand to perform tasks such as gripping and pinching, and how well these tasks can be performed. Several movement types can help an individual determine a hand strength measurement, including finger flexion. If an individual wishes to improve hand strength, various exercises can help build muscle in the hands. Understanding hand strength measurements is important because the numbers can indicate possible neuromuscular disorders.

Medical professionals typically measure hand strength along a spectrum like the Medical Research Council Scale. In this method, the professional will ask the patient to perform hand muscle strength tests either manually or by using a machine such as a dynamometer. The evaluator then grades the patient’s abilities on a scale of one to five, where one represents no muscular movement and five represents a normal muscle contraction.

A second grade is then assigned for the purpose of determining any possible disabilities. This second grade scale measures the patient's muscle function or dysfunction based on the ability tests and scores. Grades range from one to ten on the clinical assessment scale, and a higher grade indicates worsening muscle function. For example, a grade of two might signal a slight neuromuscular disability like carpal tunnel syndrome while a grade of nine is likely indicative of quadriplegia. Decreased hand muscle strength and function can emerge as a symptom in a number of conditions from nerve injury to tendon injuries.

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Different methods can assess hand strength, particularly gripping and pinching exercises. Grip strength — also known as crushing strength — refers to how much force a hand produces when it transfers from an open palm position into a closed fist. The force created when one presses the fingers of the hand together is another good indicator of hand strength. Other movements used to evaluate hand functionality include flexing the wrist, bending the palm, and holding an object with the fingers and thumb for a particular period of time.

Many tools can serve as hand strength enhancement aids, and all of these tools should be used in in proportion with hand size. Opening and closing a hand gripper can facilitate an increase in grip strength, while dexterity or stress ball maneuvering and extension rubber bands placed on the fingers can also improve overall hand muscle strength. Further, individuals should keep the hands warm and keep the blood flow to the hands active to preserve hand functionality. Following a hand grip workout, many trainers will use a contrast bath as well, in which the hands are soaked in alternating 90-second cycles of hot and cold water. Any serious training regimen should be discussed with a certified medical professional.

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