Hand-grip Test Is Good Measure of Muscle Decline in Parkinson’s, Study Finds

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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A hand-grip test is one of the best measures of muscle decline in Parkinson’s disease, research indicates.

Two University of British Columbia researchers, Jenn Jakobi and Gareth Jones, researched methods used to monitor the progression of Parkinson’s.

Their study, “Handgrip Strength Related to Long-Term Electromyography,” was published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Electromyography assessments of patients’ arm and leg muscles were compared with physical performance tests, such as hand-grip, gait speed and balance, to evaluate the best method.

“It became very clear that the hand-grip test was one of the functional tests that proved to be a reliable and valuable test measure,” Jakobi said in a press release. “The hand-grip test is an easy and conclusive way to test muscle strength decline in this group of people.”

Twenty-three men and women with Parkinson’s participated in the study, as well as 14 people without the disease. All participants were at least 50 years old and lived independently in Kelowna, Canada.

The participants were asked to wear a portable monitoring device to measure muscle activity. It recorded the electrical activity of muscles in the arms and legs for about eight hours. In addition, participants were asked to perform three physical-function tests – hand-grip, gait and balance – once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

The function tests were as conclusive and informative as the electronic recordings of muscle activity, and were easier to administer, researchers said.

“The hand-grip dynamometer is a tool that is easily accessible, easy to use, and is reliable,” Jones said. “In addition they are readily available to health professionals such as family doctors, community therapists and physiotherapists.”

“It seems these devices have come full circle and are back being used by clinicians,” Jakobi added. “It’s a tool that is ideal for Parkinson’s patients as you can easily record a decline in an individual’s physical strength and function as the disease progresses.”

According to Statistics Canada, an estimated 55,000 Canadians 18 or older living in private households reported being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The disease affects mostly men over 45.