Background: The impaired sensory function of the hand induced by carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is known to disturb dexterous manipulations. However, force control during daily grasping configuration among the five digits has not been a prominent focus of study. Because grasping is so important to normal function and use of a hand, it is important to understand how sensory changes in CTS affect the digit force of natural grasp. Questions/purposes: We therefore examined the altered patterns of digit forces applied during natural five-digit grasping in patients with CTS and compared them with those seen in control subjects without CTS. We hypothesized that the patients with CTS will grasp by applying larger forces with lowered pair correlations and more force variability of the involved digits than the control subjects. Specifically, we asked: (1) Is there a difference between patients with CTS and control subjects in applied force by digits during lift-hold-lower task? (2) Is there a difference in force correlation coefficient of the digit pairs? (3) Are there force variability differences during the holding phase? Methods: We evaluated 15 female patients with CTS and 15 control subjects matched for age, gender, and hand dominance. The applied radial forces (F r ) of the five digits were recorded by respective force transducers on a cylinder simulator during the lift-hold-lower task with natural grasping. The movement phases of the task were determined by a video-based motion capture system. Results: The applied forces of the thumb in patients with CTS (7 ± 0.8 N; 95% CI, 7.2–7.4 N) versus control subjects (5 ± 0.8 N; 95% CI, 5.1–5.3 N) and the index finger in patients with CTS (3 ± 0.3 N; 95% CI, 3.2–3.3 N) versus control subjects (2 ± 0.3 N; 95% CI, 2.2–2.3 N) observed throughout most of the task were larger in the CTS group (p ranges 0.035–0.050 for thumb and 0.016–0.050 for index finger). In addition, the applied force of the middle finger in patients with CTS (1 ± 0.1 N; 95% CI, 1.3–1.4 N) versus the control subjects (2 ± 0.2 N; 95% CI, 1.9–2.0 N) during the lowering phase was larger in CTS group (p ranges 0.039–0.050). The force correlations of the thumb-middle finger observed during the lowering phase in the patients with CTS (0.8 ± 0.2; 95% CI, 0.6–0.9) versus the control subjects (0.9 ± 0.1; 95% CI, 0.8–1.0; p = 0.04) were weaker in the CTS group. The thumb-little finger during holding in the patients with CTS (0.5 ± 0.2; 95% CI, 0.3–0.7) versus the control subjects (0.8 ± 0.2; 95% CI, 0.6–0.9; p = 0.02), and the lowering phase in the patients with CTS (0.6 ± 0.2; 95% CI, 0.3–0.8) versus the control subjects (0.9 ± 0.1; 95% CI, 0.8–1.0; p = 0.01) also were weaker. The force variabilities of patients with CTS were greater in the CTS group than in the control subjects: in the thumb ([0.26 ± 0.11 N, 95% CI, 0.20–0.32 N] versus [0.19 ± 0.06 N; 95% CI, 0.16–0.22 N], p = 0.03); index finger ([0.09 ± 0.07 N; 95% CI, 0.05–0.13 N] versus [0.05 ± 0.03 N; 95% CI, 0.04–0.07 N], p = 0.03); middle finger ([0.06 ± 0.04 N; 95% CI, 0.04–0.08 N] versus [0.03 ± 0.01 N; 95% CI, 0.02–0.04 N], p = 0.02), and ring finger ([0.04 ± 0.03 N; 95% CI, 0.20–0.06 N] versus [0.02 ± 0.01 N; 95% CI, 0.02–0.02 N], p = 0.01). Conclusions: Patients with CTS grasped with greater digit force associated with weaker correlation and higher variability on specific digits in different task demands. These altered patterns in daily grasping may lead to secondary problems, which will need to be assessed in future studies with this model to see if they are reversible in patients undergoing carpal tunnel release. Clinical Relevance: The current results helped to identify altered patterns of grasping force during simulated daily function in patients with CTS and to provide the clinician with potential information that might help guide the rehabilitation of grasp in these patients.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine