Help! I've Lost My Grip — What Can It Be?

Help! I've Lost My Grip — What Can It Be?

Grip strength isn’t just something that athletes and rock climbers prize. It allows you to do simple daily tasks, like open jars, hold on to a hairbrush, and carry dishes to the cabinet. 

When you’ve lost your grip, you experience serious functional limitations. You may drop items frequently and frustratingly. Loss of grip strength may be due to a number of conditions that affect tendons, nerves, and ligaments. 

Our orthopedic team at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists in Bethesda and Germantown, Maryland, can help determine the cause of your loss of grip strength and offer treatments and physical therapy to restore it. 

Here are some of the most common reasons that you might experience a loss in grip strength

Nerve issues

Decreased grip strength, especially if you experience it on just one side, may be due to a pinched nerve in your neck or shoulder. If you have neck or shoulder pain along with decreased grip strength, suspect that something is going on with your cervical spine or your rotator cuff.

Nerve entrapment issues closer to your hand may also cause a decrease in grip strength. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which your median nerve becomes trapped in the carpal tunnel of your wrist due to inflammation and irritation. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome may start out as tingling and numbness in your hand, but as time goes by, you may have less grip strength in your hand because the muscles shrink. You may also experience more pain, cramping, and tingling that just won’t go away. 

Tendon issues

Damage to a tendon — which attaches muscle to bone — can also weaken your grip. Tendinitis in the elbow or forearm that’s caused by overuse often results in changes in your grip. 

Golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow causes a nagging pain that eventually creeps down to your hand and affects muscular control there. 

Ligament problems

People who experience a ligament tear in the thumb may also have trouble with grip. Inflammation and irritation in the thumb causes pain everytime you grasp something. This condition, called skier’s thumb, often occurs in new mothers (due to hormonal changes) and can compromise any motion of the thumb. 

General weakness

Your grip, like any other body function, requires regular practice. If you don’t exercise or do activities that regularly involve gripping or carrying, your grip may diminish over time due to disuse. Physical therapy and regular exercise restore grip strength. 


Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis describe joint inflammation in the hand and wrist that can make your hands and fingers stiff and painful to use. When you avoid using them due to this pain, your grip naturally weakens with time. 

Improving grip strength

We can help you make improvements in your grip strength through physical therapy and recommendations for daily activity, like squeezing putty or a therapy ball. 

In some cases, you may require more invasive treatments like steroid injections to reduce inflammation, bracing to rest tired tendons or ligaments, or even surgery to free entrapped nerves. 

Contact us at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists to have your grip strength evaluated. Call our Bethesda or Germantown, Maryland, office or set up an appointment here.

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