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The effect of prefabricated wrist-hand orthoses on grip strength

Ross, Karyn and O'Hare, Mark (2013) The effect of prefabricated wrist-hand orthoses on grip strength. In: ISPO 2013 World Congress, 2013-02-04 - 2013-02-07, HICC.

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Prefabricated wrist-hand orthoses (WHOs) are commonly prescribed to manage the functional deficit and compromised grip strength as a result of rheumatoid changes. It is thought that an orthosis which improves wrist extension, reduces synovitis and increases the mechanical advantage of the flexor muscles will improve hand function. Previous studies report an initial reduction in grip strength with WHO use which may increase following prolonged use. Using normal subjects, and thus in the absence of pain as a limiting factor, the impact of ten WHOs on grip strength was measured using a Jamar dynamometer. Tests were performed with and without WHOs by right-handed, female subjects, aged 20-50 years over a ten week period. During each test, a wrist goniometer and a forearm torsiometer were used to measure wrist joint position when maximum grip strength was achieved. The majority of participants achieved maximum grip strength with no orthosis at 30° extension. All the orthoses reduced initial grip strength but surprisingly the restriction of wrist extension did not appear to contribute in a significant way to this. Reduction in grip must therefore also be attributable to WHO design characteristics or the quality of fit. The authors recognize the need for research into the long term effect of WHOs on grip strength. However if grip is initially adversely affected, patients may be unlikely to persevere with treatment thereby negating all therapeutic benefits. In studies investigating patient opinions on WHO use, it was a stable wrist rather than a stronger grip reported to have facilitated task performance. This may explain why orthoses that interfere with maximum grip strength can improve functional task performance. Therefore while it is important to measure grip strength, it is only one factor to be considered when evaluating the efficacy of WHOs.