Compared with healthy control participants, patients with hand osteoarthritis (OA) have greater impairments in measures of submaximal force control, according to study results published in Musculoskeletal Science & Practice.

In a case control-study, researchers aimed to determine whether force-matching accuracy and steadiness were impaired in patients with hand OA, as well as assess the association between force-control and hand function and pain measures in this population.

Overall, 62 participants with symptomatic hand OA along with 26 healthy pain-free control participants were assessed based on an isometric grip and pinch force matching task at 50% of their maximum voluntary contraction. Researchers recorded average hand pain and scores for the Disability of the Arm Shoulder and Hand Questionnaire (DASH) and the Functional Index of Hand Osteoarthritis.


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Results showed a significant impairment in grip force-matching accuracy and steadiness (P <.05), as well as greater pinch force-matching error (P <.05) among the participants with hand OA. There was no difference between pinch force steadiness between groups. A learning effect was observed in the hand OA group as larger force control impairments observed in trial 1 were resolved by trial 5. The only association between grip and pinch force control measures and pain intensity measures was a small correlation between measures of grip force steadiness and DASH scores (P <.05).

Study limitations included potential temporary increases in hand pain by measuring maximum voluntary contraction before force-matching tasks and heterogeneity in the OA study population.

According to the researchers, “Future studies might examine whether objective performance based measures of hand function and dexterity are associated with submaximal force control in people with hand OA.”

Reference

Magni NE, McNair PJ, Rice DA. Impairments in grip and pinch force accuracy and steadiness in people with osteoarthritis of the hand: A case-control comparison. Musculoskelet Sci Pract. Published online July 22, 2021. doi:10.1016/j.msksp.2021.102432