The Importance of Grip Strength

The Importance of Grip Strength

Doing my usual channel-hopping one evening, I recently caught a repeat episode of BBC One’s “How to Stay Young” series. It was one of those “sit up and take notice episodes” as participants in the show were put through their paces with a wide range of biometric tests to see what their bodies’ age was versus their actual age. It was quite a shock to some. One such test which we physiotherapists often use is the grip strength test, and I don’t mean a handshake! This test involves gripping and squeezing a device called a hand-held dynamometer (HHD) and the force generated by your grip is calculated in kilograms of force generated.

As we age, our grip strength does lessen but higher grip strength in all age groups, from multiple studies, has shown to be associated with better health outcomes, and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and all other causes of mortality (Leong et al, 2015). Good grip strength is also indicative of good shoulder strength so we tend to assess your grip strength if you’ve had a shoulder injury, especially to your rotator cuff muscles (Sporrong et al, 1996). We would do the same if you had a neck, elbow, wrist, hand or finger/thumb injury too. The HHD gives us a number to work with but using it also allows to assess grip strength quality, pain levels, grip endurance and speed of contraction. Some chronic conditions can effect gripping ability, however it still aids us in our clinical exam. We can also incorporate gripping strategies into rehabilitation and, given that it’s such a functional task, having good grip strength is necessary for our day to day lives.



• Leong, D.P. et al (2015) Prognostic value of grip strength: findings from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE). The Lancet, 386(9990): 266-273.
• Sporrong, H. et al (1996) Hand grip increases shoulder muscle activity, An EMG analysis with static hand contractions in 9 subjects. Acta Orthop Scand, 67(5):485-90.


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Aine Tunney MISCP



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