Measuring Grip Strength for Occupational Therapy without a Dynamometer: Using a Blood Pressure Cuff (Sphygmomanometer)

Grip Strength

  • Studies have shown a correlation between grip strength and overall health.
  • “Strength loss with age is one of the best predictors of disability, frailty, cardiometabolic disease, and early mortality.”
  • Researchers found that participants with stronger hand grips were often pumping more blood per heartbeat despite having a lower heart mass.
  • A 2015 study in The Lancet looked at populations across 17 countries and found that those with the highest grip strength were more likely to live longer and less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke.

Measuring Grip Strength

  • The gold standard to measure grip strength is with a hand dynamometer.
  • A dynamometer may not be easily accessible in your work setting.
    • Even in a hospital, it could be a hassle to bring one to each patient in an acute care setting.
  • Manual blood pressure cuffs (sphygmomanometers) are more easily accessible and can be used to measure and compare grip strength objectively. between each hand compared to having patient’s “squeeze your finger”.

How To

  1. Roll the blood pressure cuff into cylindrical grasp shape to be held by each hand.
  2. Close the valve as you would normally to take a manual blood pressure.
  3. Inflate the cuff to 20-30 mmHg.
  4. Have the patient squeeze the blood pressure cuff as they would a hand dynamometer.
    • Instruct the patient to apply maximal grip force to the cuff.
    • Note the highest needle reading on the gauge (as there is no highest reading needle that stays in place compared to a hand dynamometer).
    • Take the average of 3 trials each hand.
  5. Record the measurement to compare to the other hand and document your findings.

Thoughts

  • This assessment can be incorporated into an intervention to involve the patient to be more engaged via visual feedback.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3785662/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180314145029.htm

silversneakers.com/blog/grip-strength/

Jeff is a licensed occupational therapist and lead content creator for OT Dude. He covers all things occupational therapy as well as other topics including healthcare, wellness, mental health, technology, science, sociology, and philosophy. Buy me a Coffee on Venmo.