It seems like such a simple thing, but your grip strength matters a lot in performing daily tasks. You need good grip strength in order to carry bags, lift kids, lift weights, climb walls, shoveling dirt, hitting a bat, and so much more. We don’t realize how important this function is until we are afflicted with a condition that affects our grip strength.
One of these conditions is gout. Gout is caused by the accumulation of uric acid in the blood. These uric acid crystals can accumulate and then harden causing a very painful gout attack. The most commonly affected joint is the toe, but it can also affect other areas like the ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers.
If you have gout around your wrists and fingers, you may have a weaker grip too. Again, something as simple as a grip can be a huge indicator of our overall health. In fact, grip strength can tell a lot about a patient’s health condition such as their upper limb function, bone mineral density, sleep problems, and malnutrition.
Your grip strength can vary depending on your energy level, how much work you’ve done that day, and your overall health. If you measure your grip strength, you might learn that there is a difference between both hands. This is because you have a dominant hand and a non-dominant hand.
How Is Grip Strength Measured?
There are several ways to measure grip strength. There is the handgrip dynamometer where you have to hold the device at a 90-degree angle. Squeeze the device as hard and it will tell you how strong your grip is. Another method is by pushing down on a weight scale. You can do this at home by wrapping your fingers at the bottom of the scale and the heel of your hands on top of the scale. To get the most accurate measurements, you’ll want to use the same scale every time.
Warning Signs of a Weak Grip
You don’t need to go visit a doctor or buy a special meter to determine how strong your grip is. Just pay attention to warning signs. If you find yourself struggling to do simple gripping tasks such as squeezing a bottle of ketchup or you’re constantly dropping things, it could be that you have poor grip strength. In this case, you need to take some steps in order to strengthen it.
How to Strengthen your Grip
Most people experience a decline in grip strength in their late 30s as this is the time when the body begins to lose muscle mass and strength. We use our hands in many aspects of our daily life so it’s easy to take them for granted. It’s only when we feel some kind of pain that we really learn to appreciate strong and able hands. So, while you’re still able, it’s important to work on your grip strength. Here are the ways you can do that.
Use a grip strengthener
This exercise tool is specially made for exercising your hands so that you have a stronger grip. You can buy this at any exercise equipment store and use it right away. Best of all, it’s lightweight so you can take it anywhere with you and exercise your grip whenever you want.
Play with grip toys
Who says toys are only for kids? You can make grip exercises more fun with various grip toys such as rubber bands, silicone stretch balls, squeezable rings. Depending on the kind of toy you’re playing with, you can manipulate it so you can work on specific muscles of your hand.
Perform hand exercises
You can also just skip the toys and perform hand exercises daily. There are plenty of exercises you can do to strengthen your grip. The goal is to strengthen and improve your hand’s flexibility. Here are some basic ones to try.
- Start with your palm open and slowly make a fist. Avoid squeezing too tightly as this might result in more pain. Repeat this several times.
- With your palm wide open, take each finger and move it towards the center of your palm. Hold it there for a few seconds before straightening it back. If you are feeling more pain in your thumb, do the same exercise. See if you can reach your pinky, but if not, that’s fine.
- Make a C or O with your hand. The motion should be as if you’re grabbing a ball but you’re straightening your fingers after you form a C or O. Repeat this exercise several times.
- Make a fist with your hand and place it on the table with fist on the table with the pinky side touching the table.
See a physical therapist
For the best advice on how to have better grip strength, you can visit a physical or occupational therapist. They specialize in this body motion and can provide you with exercise that best fits your needs. This is important especially if you have specific areas in your hands that feel painful.
Getting to the Root Cause
The exercises we listed above are just the beginning of your journey to improving grip strength. In order to sustain that, you need to get to the root cause of the problem. Hand exercises can only do so much. First, you need to address the inflammation that’s causing you pain.
Are you at a healthy weight? If you’re overweight or obese, you could have high inflammation in your body. In this case, you need to lose that excess weight. This can be done through diet and exercise. Not only will these lifestyle changes help lower the inflammation, it will also lessen the pressure on your joints.
Sometimes, lifestyle adjustments may not be enough, and you need to take medication. If you are currently on medication for gout, make sure to stick to it. Don’t think that just because you don’t feel anything, you don’t need meds. With gout, it’s different. Uric crystals can be in your body, and you won’t feel any pain in your joints. But when they accumulate and harden, you might get a surprise gout attack.
You don’t want to be caught blindsided so it’s better to be on the safe side. Gout medication is often taken for the long term. Sad to say but even lifestyle changes can only do so much. Your body may have difficulty getting rid of uric acid and gout medication greatly helps remove that excess uric acid so you’re not at risk for a flare.
Coping with Poor Grip Strength
Despite your best efforts, there will be days where your grip strength is not enough. Thankfully, there are quick solutions to that problem.
Use liquid chalk
Chalk is often used by powerlifters to help them have a better grip of the bar. If you suffer from weak grip strength, you can borrow this idea to help you perform daily activities such as carrying bags or opening jars. Make sure to get the liquid chalk and not the regular one as those tend to be messy.
Use a mechanical grabber
A mechanical grabber will be a godsend to your hand and to your back. You can pick up stuff without having to bend over. Simply squeeze the handle when picking up small or light objects. This tool comes in multiple lengths. Consider getting one that’s collapsible so you can take it anywhere you go.
Use a dycem cone gripper
Dycem is often recommended to arthritis patients who have difficulty gripping. Get a dycem cone gripper as this is made of flexible, grippy material that makes it easy to open various containers.
Wear rubber gloves
Rubber gloves are just like dycem in the sense that it helps you deal with slippery things like bottle lids and doorknobs. It helps to have a pair with you for days when your grip is not as strong. A pair of rubber dish gloves are great but if you want something more discreet, you can use medical latex gloves or latex covered work gloves.
Consider using ergonomic tools
There are plenty of tools now specially designed to help people who suffer from arthritis. Are you having a hard time dressing? There’s a special tool that takes the pressure of your hands so you can snap buttons, unbutton shirts, and close zippers with ease. What about writing? Opt for wider pens.
Identify key daily tasks that you find challenging and there is sure to be a specific product that can help solve that problem.
Grip strength is not just about being able to perform basic tasks. It speaks a lot about your overall health. So, it’s really important to pay attention to this area and find ways to remedy it before it’s too late. Simply observe your way of carrying out tasks daily and if you notice a problem, ask help from medical professionals and also take advantage of ergonomic tools available in the market.
How is your grip strength? What are you doing to improve it? Share your stories in the comments below.
Posted by Spiro Koulouris