Monitoring muscle strength is one of the ways physical therapists and other healthcare practitioners can objectively assess overall health. The best tool for accurately evaluating muscle strength are what is know as Hand Held Dynamometers. Every move a body makes is powered by muscle strength. Muscle strength describes the force generated when a muscle (or group of muscles) contract. Maintaining muscle strength is an important part of daily life as it affects many aspects. Hand held dynamometers are the only way to consistently measure muscle strength in patients no matter who is performing the exam.
From getting out of bed to getting into and driving a car then pushing a grocery cart to buy daily essentials, muscle strength is needed to complete these essential daily activities.
Muscle weakness can lead to injuries. For example, weakened core and low back muscles can lead to chronic low back pain and sciatica. As we age, muscular weakness can increase the risk of falls and fractures.
Additionally, as we age we begin to lose muscle mass leading to less efficient muscle function. However, muscle strengthening exercises can be used to reverse these changes maintaining muscular function and efficiency.
Maintaining muscular strength can reduce the risk and symptoms of some diseases. For example, working with resistance strengthening exercises can help prevent bone loss which can advance to osteoporosis. Also, exercise helps improve sleep, metabolic function and mood.
Conversely, muscular weakness can be a sign of increased risk for osteoarthritis, falls, and heart attack. It becomes important then to have a standard of measure for muscle strength to not only identify muscle weakness, but also impairment which can aid in rehabilitation from issues arising from disease or injury.
The main issue with muscle testing is to have an objective way to document muscle weakness. Handheld digital dynamometers are one of the most objective and consistent tools to use when muscle testing. Research has shown that handheld dynamometers are superior in providing reliable results with both single testers and multiple testers over the course of multiple tests. Put simply, when performing handheld dynamometer strength testing, the results are trustworthy whether a patient is being tested by one practitioner or varied professionals.
What is the Standard for Muscle Strength?
The truth is there are norms for muscle strength in typical adult populations, however these ranges are broad across parameters such as gender, age and weight. As such, it’s been determined that falling below the range in two of these groups can reliably identify impairment. The degree of muscle strength impairment is established when the patient’s results are compared against normal values of muscle strength.
When establishing muscle strength and attempting to identify impairment, the most important baseline for muscle strength is actually the patient, underlining the importance of reliable muscular testing tools. Handheld dynamometer reliability makes it the tool of choice when establishing a patient’s personal strength baseline, by helping identify changes in personal norms, left/right comparisons and tracking rehabilitative progress.
What Muscle Actions Are Used for Muscle Testing?
- Wrist extension
- Elbow Flexion
- Elbow Extension
- Shoulder Lateral Rotation
- Shoulder Extension
- Shoulder Abduction
- Ankle Dorsiflexion
- Knee Extension
- Hip Flexion
- Hip Abduction
Handheld Dynamometer Units for Muscle Testing
A published study, Hand-Held Dynamometry: Reliability of Lower Extremity Muscle Testing in Healthy, Physically Active, Young Adults, used the MicroFet 2 handheld dynamometer for its testing purposes. What sets this study apart from others, is most studies focus on subjects with impairments. The purpose of this study was to establish the reliability of testing results in healthy individuals in order to prove that handheld dynamometer for manual muscle testing can work for a wide range of physical abilities. The study results showed that the MicroFet 2 provided accurate results for the tested population, providing the tester adhered to testing protocols and could provide enough counter-force.
Features of the MicroFet 2
The MicroFet 2 handheld dynamometer is a popular manual muscle testing tool amongst doctors, physical therapists,
chiropractor’s, etc. Not only is it cost-effective, but it’s ergonomic design is able to objectively measure force in multiple planes. Additional features make the MicroFet 2 an essential manual muscle testing tool.
Easy to Use
With its light weight and digital display with brightness control located directly on the gauge, the MicroFet 2 digital dynamometer is extremely easy to use and read results.
In order to give the most accurate muscle testing results possible, the MicroFet 2 was designed to provide measurements in increments of 0.2 pounds up to 300 pounds. To increase its applicable use, the MicroFet 2 measures in Pounds, Newtons or Kilograms Force (KGF).
MicroFET Clinical Software Package
Part of rehabilitation is to not only establish a baseline of muscular strength, but to be able to track progress. With the corresponding clinical software package, it’s possible to collect, organize and analyze individual test results. Further, reports can be compiled to provide graphs and narratives of patient tracking, analysis and necessary comparisons.
If a practitioner is interested in doing research or using test results for education purposes, the MicroFet 2 has a data collection software package that can capture raw test data and provide a real-time graph of data points. The data capture is in a CSV format compatible with spreadsheet programs like Microsoft Excel.
Perhaps the most important feature of the MicroFet 2 handheld dynamometer is that it’s widely accepted and used as an industry standard tool that provides accurate and valid manual muscle testing results.
Whether the purpose is diagnostic, progress tracking, research or education, achieving accurate manual muscle testing results starts with choosing the correct handheld dynamometer for the job. After that, it’s extremely important to adhere to establish testing protocols and for the tester to provide adequate counter-force (meaning it’s more difficult to get accurate results if the tester isn’t as strong as the subject). But when used correctly, digital handheld dynamometers have been proven to provide accurate and reliable results of muscle strength.
As we’ve discussed, muscle strength is an important aspect of daily life. Handheld dynamometers make it possible to take accurate measurements of muscle strength increasing the chance of rehabilitative success when an injury or disease is present. Handheld dynamometers make it possible to identify impairments and address strength issues before they lead to disease or injury. These applications make the handheld dynamometer an essential tool not only in rehabilitation, but in general health and wellness. Muscle strength is absolutely necessary to perform the functions of daily life, but muscle strength is also an evaluative tool, diagnostic tool, a progress tracking tool and a predictor of future health and wellness. Using a handheld dynamometer test gives us a way to accurately and effectively measure muscle strength.