There are many reasons to measure a patient’s pinch strength. In worker’s compensation cases, it may be necessary to establish if the patient can return to work. As part of a functional capacity evaluation, pinch strength testing can give an indication of sincerity of effort through coefficient of variation data, as well as an indication of the patient’s ability to perform job-related tasks requiring manual dexterity or fine motor skills. As part of a screening, comparing a subject’s strength relative to a normative database may be desirable. In the case of a post-offer, pinch testing may be used to help determine an employee’s predisposition to repetitive motion disorders. With today’s insurance companies requiring documentation of outcomes, testing new patients and establishing a baseline from which to assess treatment effectiveness (surgical, chiropractic or otherwise) may be extremely helpful. When used as part of a functional capacity evaluation, the pinch strength testing portion of the exam should include, as a minimum, the three basic pinch tests: tip, key, and palmar.
A published rehabilitation protocol for patients with carpal tunnel syndrome suggests that pinch strength testing should occur as part of an initial exam that also includes orthopedic and neurological tests, nerve latency tests, range of motion and x-ray. This test could be as simple as a single tip pinch or a complete test including custom tests. The article indicates that after two weeks of intensive care treatment, the patient’s pinch strength should be re-tested. After 6-8 weeks of rehabilitation care, the pinch strength should again be tested. Upon discharge of the patient, or release to pre-injury status, a final pinch strength evaluation should be performed.