Author(s): Bautmans I, Gorus E, Njemini R, Mets T
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Low grip strength is recognized as one of the characteristics of frailty, as are systemic inflammation and the sensation of fatigue. Contrary to maximal grip strength, the physical resistance of the muscles to fatigue is not often included in the clinical evaluation of elderly patients. The aim of this study was to investigate if the grip strength and the resistance of the handgrip muscles to fatigue are related to self-perceived fatigue, physical functioning and circulating IL-6 in independently living elderly persons. METHODS: Forty elderly subjects (15 female and 25 male, mean age 75 +/- 5 years) were assessed for maximal grip strength, as well as for fatigue resistance and grip work (respectively time and work delivered until grip strength drops to 50\% of its maximum during sustained contraction), self perceived fatigue (VAS-Fatigue, Mob-Tiredness scale and the energy & fatigue items of the WHOQOL-100), self rated physical functioning (domain of physical functioning on the MOS short-form) and circulating IL-6. Relationships between handgrip performance and the other outcome measures were assessed. RESULTS: In the male participants, fatigue resistance was negatively related to actual sensation of fatigue (VAS-F, p < .05) and positively to circulating IL-6 (p < .05). When corrected for body weight, the relations of fatigue resistance with self-perceived fatigue became stronger and also apparent in the female. Grip strength and grip work were significantly related with several items of self-perceived fatigue and with physical functioning. These relations became more visible by means of higher correlation coefficients when grip strength and grip work were corrected for body weight. CONCLUSION: Well functioning elderly subjects presenting less hand muscle fatigue resistance and weaker grip strength are more fatigued, experience more tiredness during daily activities and are more bothered by fatigue sensations. Body weight seems to play an important role in the relation of muscle performance to fatigue perception. Elderly patients complaining from fatigue should be physically assessed, both evaluating maximal grip strength and fatigue resistance, allowing the calculation of grip work, which integrates both parameters. Grip work might best reflect the functional capacity resulting from the development of a certain strength level in relation to the time it can be maintained.
This article was published in BMC Geriatr
and referenced in Journal of Gerontology & Geriatric Research