A weak hand grip isn’t just a sign of weakness or ageing related issues but could be an indicator of a range of health troubles from type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular issues, stroke, kidney and liver ailments among others. A recent study conducted by Delhi doctors at Apollo and Fortis found out. Sudden hand weakness especially shouldn’t be taken lightly as it can be indicator of stroke or heart trouble. The other health woes associated with weak hand grip could be carpal tunnel syndrome, a herniated cervical disc, osteoarthritis, or diabetic neuropathy. (Also read | Weak handgrip strength might indicate major health issues: Study)
Hand grip weakness can also tell about the changes that are happening in the body due to insulin resistance. This could mean higher chances of developing type 2 diabetes and related metabolic disorders. If your hand feels weak, it could also mean you aren’t taking a balanced diet and have developed nutrient deficiencies.
Hand weakness isn’t always a cause of trouble and at times could happen due to stress and exertion. However, persistent hand weakness or the one that happens without any apparent reason both could be sign of trouble in your overall health.
“Almost all people experience weakness at one point or another in their lives. It may be caused due to fatigue from over-exertion or maybe the battle against a disease makes us weakened. Hand weakness or ‘heaviness’ can develop owing to a number of conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, a herniated cervical disc, or osteoarthritis, and neuropathy,” says Dr Tarun Sharma, Director-Brain & Spine Surgery, Marengo Asia Hospitals, Faridabad.
Measuring hand grip strength is a straightforward yet insightful assessment that provides valuable information about an individual’s overall health. To measure hand grip, a dynamometer, a device designed to gauge muscular strength, is commonly employed. The subject grips the dynamometer with maximal effort, and the recorded force reflects their hand grip strength. This measurement is typically taken in kilograms or pounds. The process can be repeated for both hands, offering a comprehensive evaluation of an individual’s muscular capabilities,” says Dr Sri Karan Uddesh Tanugula, Consultant General Physician, Yashoda Hospitals.
“The importance of hand grip strength extends beyond its simplicity. It serves as a reliable indicator of general health, particularly cardiovascular well-being. Numerous studies have established a robust connection between weak hand grip and an increased risk of heart disease and mortality. This association stems from shared physiological factors, such as muscle mass and cardiovascular health, underscoring the significance of hand grip strength as a potential early warning sign for systemic health issues,” says Dr Tanugula.
Sudden hand weakness
“If someone experiences sudden hand weakness, they should immediately seek medical attention. It may be a sign of a stroke that is a serious medical emergency. However, if you develop a nagging hand weakness, it’s usually not considered a serious medical condition and can rarely turn fatal. Hand weakness lasting for weeks or months usually occurs due to a treatable medical condition. If left unnoticed, the weakness can exacerbate along with the underlying cause,” says Dr Sharma.
Common causes of hand weakness
Dr Sharma shares other common reasons of hand weakness.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Also known as median nerve compression, it is one of the most common causes of numbness, tingling or weakness and pain in your hand. This condition occurs due to overuse of the hand, arm, or wrist, often owing to repetitive movements like operating machinery or typing. Assembly line workers, sewer or knitter, baker, cashier, hair stylist, or musician are at higher risk to develop this syndrome. Inflammation on the inside of your wrist may become the cause of this condition. The inflammation compresses a nerve, known as the median nerve, that transports via a ‘tunnel’ of bones and ligaments inside the wrist.
As we know that diabetes is the most common cause of neuropathy, there are several other factors that can also lead to hand weakness. Neuropathy is also called peripheral neuropathy that occurs in nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. This condition primarily affects hands and feet.
Also known as ‘wear-and-tear arthritis,’, it is a condition that may lead to progressive degeneration of joints.
Many people may develop radiculopathy (the pinching of a spinal nerve root) at some point in their life. The risk of this condition increases when spinal bones deteriorate and collapse, when any traumatic spinal injury or displacement of tissues between the spinal bones occurs.
A pinched nerve in the cervical spine of the neck (called cervical radiculopathy) may give rise to hand weakness as this is the part of the spinal cord that plays a key role in controlling hand movements.
5 THINGS THAT WEAK HAND GRIP REVEAL ABOUT HEALTH
Dr Shivaram Rao K, Consultant Neuro Physician, Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad shares five things that your weak hand grip tells about your body and mind.
Having a weak hand grip can indicate more than just a lack of arm strength. Here are five things it might reveal about your overall health:
1. Muscle mass and strength: Weak hand grip often correlates with lower muscle mass and strength, which can increase the risk of injury and impact overall physical performance.
2. Cardiovascular health: Research suggests that grip strength is linked to cardiovascular health. A weaker grip may indicate poor circulation and potential risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
3. Metabolic health: Reduced grip strength has been associated with insulin resistance and higher likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. It may indicate underlying metabolic issues that need attention.
4. Nutritional status: Inadequate nutrient intake or malnutrition can lead to muscle weakness, including in the hands. A weak grip might signal a need to reassess dietary habits and ensure proper nutrition.
5. Overall functional decline: Grip strength is a marker of overall functional decline in older adults. It can predict mobility limitations and mortality risk. Regular exercise and lifestyle changes can help improve grip strength and overall health.
“Even if you need to use your hands persistently for work or responsibilities around the home, hand pain caused by repetitive use may be hard to check. Therefore, you are advised to take short breaks from typing or other labour for a few minutes every hour. Resting the hands when possible and being more mindful can be helpful,” says Dr Sharma.
“The treatment is followed depending upon the causes but may include anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid injections, or different types of surgery. Physical therapy can also help,” adds Dr Sharma.