Decreased grip strength: Decrease in muscle strength of hand(s)

Grip strength is the force exerted by the hand to pull or hang on objects and is a specific component of hand strength. Good grip strength is required for, among other things, opening a jar or closing a zipper. Sometimes patients experience a decrease in muscle strength of the hand or hands. Sometimes a weak grip points to natural aging, but occasionally reduced hand function points to larger, more serious health problems such as a stroke. When a patient notices reduced hand function, it is wise to consult a doctor to find out exactly what is causing the problems. Assessing grip strength, in combination with the patient’s medical history and other presenting symptoms, tells the doctor a lot about the patient’s overall health. After a proper diagnosis, the doctor can devise a treatment plan if necessary.

  • Causes of reduced grip strength
  • Acute injuries
  • Arthritis of the hands
  • Stroke
  • Ganglion cyst
  • Heart problems
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Natural aging
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Nerve damage
  • Associated symptoms
  • Treatment of decrease in muscle strength of the hand or hands
  • Physiotherapy
  • Medication
  • Surgery
  • Exoskeleton


Causes of reduced grip strength

Reduced grip has numerous fairly general and harmless to (very) serious causes.

Acute injuries

A decrease in grip strength is sometimes the result of acute injuries such as broken bones, skier’s thumb (stretched or torn ligament in thumb with pain), sprains or burns.

Arthritis of the hands

Various types of arthritis (inflammation of the joints with pain, stiffness and swelling) can affect the hands, such as rheumatoid arthritis (inflammation of the joints and organs) and psoriatic arthritis (inflammation of the skin and joints). Arthritis in the fingers, thumbs and wrist is common and always affects gripping ability because 50% of hand use and 100% of gripping require a functioning thumb. In addition, swollen, painful, stiff joints are simply more difficult to use, potentially resulting in significant disability.


A stroke occurs when blood and oxygen to the brain are cut off. This can cause numbness, confusion, weakness, eye problems. After a stroke, hemiparesis (half-sided paralysis) often leads to reduced muscle strength and a reduced ability to quickly generate and maintain muscle force. However, the difference between the affected and unaffected hand decreases significantly during the first year after a stroke.

Ganglion cyst

A ganglion cyst is a benign swelling or bump that often occurs around or on joints and tendons in the hand or foot. A ganglion manifests itself as a subcutaneous bump or lump. The size sometimes changes over time and occasionally even disappears completely. In most cases, ganglion cysts are painful, especially in the beginning. But the severity of the pain is not related to its size. Occasionally, gripping problems, tingling or numbness are also manifested, especially when the ganglion cyst presses against a nerve.

Heart problems

Hand strength may offer clues to heart health. Lower handgrip strength is associated with higher blood pressure, higher triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood), higher blood sugar levels and lower LDL (bad cholesterol).

Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the nervous system that causes problems with balance, speech and movement. Patients with MS have problems with movement and strength of the upper body, including the arms and hands. This may affect many daily activities, such as lifting or holding an object such as a cup. Many patients may have less grip strength and others may use more force or effort to hold or move things. This consumes more energy and increases fatigue and muscle fatigue.

Natural aging

Grip strength is closely related to two well-recognized signs of aging: sarcopenia (loss of muscle) and dynapenia (loss of strength). Once people reach their late 30s, the body naturally begins to lose both muscle mass and strength, including in the handgrip.

Vitamin B12 deficiency may lead to a loss of muscle strength in the hands. Fatigue is one of the other possible signs / Source: Concord90, Pixabay

Vitamin B12 deficiency

Common symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency include fatigue, pale skin, weakness, drowsiness, numbness and loss of strength, for example in the hand and wrist.

Nerve damage

A nerve injury occurs as a result of an accident and trauma, such as a car accident or a sports injury, or is progressive as a result of overuse or a repetitive motion injury. Because nerves are responsible for carrying the signals to and from the brain that allow movement and sensation throughout the body, a damaged nerve impairs movement and sensation and also causes pain. Various types of nerve damage can lead to grip problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome (tingling and/or weakness in the hand), diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage due to diabetes with pain), cubital tunnel syndrome (pressure on ulna nerve with weakness),

Associated symptoms

Some other symptoms may also occur with reduced grip strength, such as:

  • a numb feeling/numbness
  • hand pain
  • hand weakness
  • the inability to carry otherwise manageable objects
  • clumsiness with the hand(s)
  • tingling in the hand(s)
  • hand fatigue


Treatment of decrease in muscle strength of the hand or hands

In many patients suffering from hand weakness, grip strength improves by addressing the underlying cause. In addition, some other forms of therapy are possible.


Exercises that strengthen the hand, wrist and arm muscles are useful for patients with a decrease in muscle strength in the hand or hands. Squeezing special therapy balls, practicing with hand training products, completing hand and wrist stretches, mobilizing techniques and other simple activities strengthen grip strength and increase flexibility.

The doctor sometimes prescribes medication / Source: Stevepb, Pixabay


In advanced cases of inflammation, the doctor sometimes has to prescribe painkillers. The patient can take corticosteroids orally (by mouth) or else the doctor injects them to control the inflammation.


Occasionally a surgical procedure is necessary to restore hand function and associated strength.


Some patients benefit from an exoskeleton, a kind of glove that protects the hand and provides more strength in the hands. This is especially useful for patients who work in industrial areas that require heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, grasping, tool handling and repetitive movements.

read more

  • Hand osteoarthritis: Joint disease with pain and stiffness
  • Muscle Fatigue: Causes of tired muscles
  • Hand pain: Causes and symptoms of a painful hand
  • Hand tumors: Benign and malignant growths in the hand
  • Muscle weakness (weak muscles): Decreased muscle strength
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