From the time I was fairly young, my mother handed over jars for me to open. She always had arthritis and when I was really young it was a kick to open something she couldn’t. As I get older, I am becoming increasingly aware of my own inability to open bags of chips (what do they make those things out of anymore?) or a jar of salsa without assistance from either a pair of scissors or a rubber gripper. Like my mom, I’m beginning to show some signs of arthritis but I am also aware that it might not be all about arthritis. After all, there’s very little physical exercise involved in typing out a story and certainly not much lifting goes on other than when I lift my cup of water every few minutes. While not being able to open a jar is inconvenient, we have ways around it such as the rubber gripper I mentioned. But, lack of grip strength isn’t just inconvenient, it’s an indication of functional decline later in life.
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association from 1999 indicated a connection between grip strength and old age disability. The Hawaiian study followed over 6,000 men (average age of 54) from 1965 to 1993 and looked at hand strength when the men first entered the study and compared those results with functional limitations 25 years later. The 1999 study found that the risk of disability was two times higher in the lowest grip strength group than in the highest. Researchers in that study concluded that good muscle strength in midlife protected against disability later in life.
It’s been nearly two decades from that study but all subsequent studies have mirrored those results. Grip strength indicates strength elsewhere in the body. It can be used to assess individuals who have experienced a stroke or cancer. In a 2011 interview, University of Connecticut professor of physical therapy, Richard Bohannon uses grip strength as a screening tool. For him, grip strength indicates a level of reserve should patients experience an infection or other medical setback while in therapy.
Go to this article from Next Avenue to find suggestions for improving your grip.