If you’ve been noticing a weaker grip lately, this doesn’t necessarily point to carpal tunnel syndrome, though this condition CAN cause a weakened grip.

In fact, carpal tunnel syndrome can weaken the grip enough to cause difficulty picking up small objects, making a fist or conducting tasks that require a good solid grip.

“CTS can definitely cause a weakened grip because the median nerve innervates the muscles on the thumb side of the hand — and the thumb is extremely important in all grip types,” says Logan Thomas, PT, DPT, based in Muncie, IN.

Dr. Logan adds, “When a nerve is compressed, it decreases the strength of the signal that reaches the muscles.”

Median nerve compression in carpal tunnel syndrome. Scientific Animations

Other Conditions that Can Weaken the Grip

• ALS. Unlike the conditions listed below, this disease will progress to other parts of the body, eventually weakening and paralyzing the entire body.

A grip that’s been weak for months on end, with NO other symptoms, is likely one of the conditions below.

• Pronator syndrome. Think of carpal tunnel syndrome but a little higher up.

Pronator syndrome

• Cervical radiculopathy. The problem originates in the nerves located in the neck, which branch down and ultimately reach the hand. A “pinched nerve” in the neck can weaken the grip.

Cervical radiculopathy. Mikael Häggström, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

• Medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow). The weakness is not inherent in the hand or wrist; rather, the pain in the elbow prevents full gripping action.

Golfer’s elbow

• Ulnar nerve palsy (e.g., cubital tunnel syndrome). The ulnar nerve is the “funny bone” nerve in the elbow.

Ulnar nerve. BruceBlaus

• Brachial plexus injury/disorder. The brachial plexus nerves that arise in the neck and feed down to the hand can be subject to injury.

• Median nerve palsy. The median nerve runs the length of the arm.

• Radial neuropathy. The radial nerve runs the length of the arm.

There are many nerve conditions aside from the above that can weaken the grip, but they will also affect other parts of the body.

Carpal tunnel syndrome classically also causes pain in the wrist, plus tingling and numbness in the thumb, index and middle finger and part of the ring finger.

Dr. Thomas a physical therapist, and strength and conditioning coach who is passionate about patient education. He believes the most important and often overlooked step in the process to becoming pain-free is understanding the anatomy and biomechanics of your body.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 
Top image: Shutterstock/ LI Cook
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