Variability of Precision Pinch Movements Caused by Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Sebastian Gehrmann, Jie Tang, Robert A. Kaufmann, Robert J. Goitz, Joachim Windolf, Zong Ming Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Purpose: Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) impairs the performance of fine motor tasks of the hand, leading to clumsiness. Precision pinch by the thumb and index finger is a frequent task that requires the fine control of each digit as well as the coordination of the 2 digits. The purpose of this study was to examine the performance of precision pinch movements impaired by CTS. Methods: Sixteen CTS subjects and 16 gender- and age-matched control subjects were instructed to repetitively perform the precision pinch movement with the thumb and index finger. A marker-based motion analysis method was used to obtain the kinematic data of the thumb and index finger during the precision pinch movements. Pinch performance was quantified by the variability of tip positions, joint angles, and tip distance at the pinch closures in the repeated movements. Results: The CTS subjects performed the precision pinch movements less consistently compared with performance of the control subjects. The inconsistency was demonstrated by the increased variability of the tip positions of the 2 digits and the joint angles of the index finger. However, the variability of thumb joint angles was not significantly different between the 2 groups. The tip-to-tip distance, an indicator of thumb and index finger coordination, was relatively reproducible for both groups. Still, the CTS subjects showed a 50% greater variability of the tip distance compared with that of the control subjects. Conclusions: Carpal tunnel syndrome impairs the performance of precision pinch movement as indicated by the increased variability. The results correlate with the observed clumsiness or lack of dexterity for patients with CTS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1069-1075
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • dexterity
  • finger
  • hand
  • precision pinch movement
  • thumb
  • variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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