Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Interdisciplinary Health Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Linda Shuster

Second Advisor

Dr. Debra Lindstrom

Third Advisor

Dr. Brenda Coppard


Pinch force, pinch span, osteoarthritis, functional pinch, hand strength


The three studies that form this dissertation build knowledge related to functional pinch. Study 1 provides normative data for the Baseline® 5-Position Hydraulic Pinch Meter, which may be used in clinical practice. The data collected in this study demonstrate the relationship between lateral pinch strength and age and reveal that strength decreases with age in both males and females. Through examination of the lateral pinch force produced at the 5 different pinch spans, it was found that the strongest lateral pinch strength was produced at 4-5 cm of pinch span. This information can be used by clinicians as they modify or adapt tasks for their clients for improved functional performance.

The literature indicates that 5-7 pounds of pinch force is required to complete most daily tasks (Terrono et al., 2011). Study 2 examines the use of pinch force to open 15 different food packages. It was found that males use greater than 7 pounds of force to open 5/15 items, and females use greater than 7 pounds of force to open 3/15 items. Given the decrease in lateral pinch strength that occurs with age, this information is important, as opening food packages is a basic task needed to maintain independent living.

The development of osteoarthritis in the carpometacarpal joint of the thumb has been reported in the literature as part of the aging process for many older adults. This pathology has also been associated with a decrease in hand strength. Study 3 seeks to examine the relationship between radiographic findings and functional loss, hand strength, and pain. No statistically significant relationship has been found among these variables. However, semi-structured interviews have produced a list of many tasks that participants reported as being difficult or producing pain. Moreover, the qualitative data reveal that resiliency and persistence of the older adult participants contribute to their ability to complete daily functional tasks despite pain, difficulty, and increased time demands to do so.

Functional pinch is a complex concept important for hand function, which impacts many aspects of participation in activities of daily living and, in turn, impacts quality of life and completion of life roles. Because of this complexity and the difficulty in performing research with human subjects, pinch is challenging to research but absolutely essential for future understanding of the use of the hand for participation in functional tasks.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access