The ability to direct forces between the thumb and fingers is important to secure objects in the hand. We compared the coordination of thumb musculature in key and opposition pinch postures between stable and unstable tasks. The unstable task (producing thumb-tip force wearing a beaded thimble) required well-directed forces; the stable task (producing thumb-tip force against a pinch meter) did not. Fine-wire electromyography of thumb muscles and thumb-tip force magnitudes were recorded, We found no statistical differences in thumb-tip force between postures or stable versus unstable tasks, indicating that the highest magnitudes of force can be accurately directed. Abductor pollicis brevis and extensor pollicis longus were significantly more activated in the unstable tasks, suggesting their importance in directing thumb-tip force, Understanding how pinch forces are directed might influence the choice of muscle-tendon transfers performed to restore function to the severely paralyzed thumb, We introduce a device to quantify the ability to control pinch force magnitude and direction simultaneously. © 2001 American Society for Surgery of the Hand.
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