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Older peopleJun 25, 2021

Fife physiotherapists present findings on grip strength study at NHS Scotland annual event

A research project developed by three Fife-based physiotherapists featured at this year’s NHS Scotland Event, which took place online from 22 to 24 June.

Titled ‘Getting to Grips with Grip Strength: a review of patients mapped against sarcopenia consensus cut points’, the study was based on audit conducted by physios across Fife in September 2019. Sarcopenia is defined as ‘a condition characterised by loss of skeletal muscle mass and function’.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Exercise is one of the recommended interventions when sarcopenia is suspected

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The findings were presented by Janet Thomas, Lorna Martin and Gary Muir on behalf of the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership’s older people’s physiotherapy group.

The study aimed to ascertain:

  • whether people attending physiotherapy for older adults in Fife might need further assessment for frailty or sarcopenia based on their grip strength
  • whether patients’ grip strength varied in line with various rehabilitation locations in Fife

Physiotherapists logged details of 173 patients whose grip strength was measured during their initial physiotherapy assessment. The physios – working in settings including day hospitals, patients’ homes and inpatient settings – followed a set protocol and used dynamometers to measure their patients’ grip strength.

Potential sarcopenia was defined using the cut points of 16kg for women and 27kg for men, in line with a recently revised European consensus.

As well as recording the patient’s gender, the physiotherapists also offered subjective assessments of his or her frailty level – based on information gathered from the referral and their own assessment, for example.


The results, which were analysed using descriptive and inferential statistical measures, showed that the overall mean grip strength was 15.22 kg for the left hand (standard deviation (SD) 9.14) and 16.79 kg for the right hand (SD 8.84).

A poster developed for this year’s annual national NHS event said that ‘some correlation’ was found between the level of the patient’s frailty and grip strength, particularly among women.


If probable sarcopenia is found, then the recommended interventions include exercise and nutritional advice ... a pathway for patients assessed within physiotherapy (could be) developed [Janet Thomas and colleagues]

The paper concludes: ‘Grip strength is a feasible way of screening to indicate further assessment for sarcopenia, following the consensus flow chart.

‘Over three quarters of patients assessed and included in this audit would meet the criteria for further investigation of frailty and sarcopenia.

‘If probable sarcopenia is found, then the recommended interventions include exercise and nutritional advice. It is suggested that a pathway for patients assessed within physiotherapy is developed to follow best available evidence.'

In a tweet posted earlier this week, Ms Thomas said: ‘It's quick, cheap to do and we found a large proportion of our case load would benefit from advice and management for #sarcopenia.'

Ms Thomas is the lead physiotherapist for Fife and secretary of the International Association of Physiotherapists working with Older People, a subgroup of  World Physiotherapy. See: https://world.physio/subgroups/older-people

For more information about the NHS Scotland Event presentation and to listen to a short talk by the three physiotherapists on their study, visit: https://my.ltb.io/www/#/

Contact details are given as follows: @janetthomas47 and @lornaemartin






Author: Ian A McMillan
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