Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Myotonic dystrophy: practical issues relating to assessment of strength
  1. R G Whittaker1,
  2. E Ferenczi2,
  3. D Hilton-Jones2
  1. 1Mitochondrial Research Group, School of Neurology, Neurobiology and Psychiatry, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  2. 2Department of Clinical Neurology, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 R G Whittaker
 Mitochondrial Research Group, School of Neurology, Neurobiology and Psychiatry, University Of Newcastle upon Tyne, Framlington Place, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, UK; r.whittaker{at}


Background: Myotonic dystrophy type 1 is a slowly progressive multisystem disease in which skeletal muscle involvement is prominent. As novel physical and pharmacological treatments become available, it is crucial to be able to measure their efficacy accurately.

Methods: 158 consecutive patients with myotonic dystrophy were assessed annually in a specialist muscle clinic. Strength was measured using both the Medical Research Council (MRC) scale and a hand-held dynamometer. Dynamometer readings were obtained from 108 normal subjects (controls).

Results: The movements showing the greatest rate of change in strength were ankle dorsiflexion and pinch grip. Both of these showed a decline of only 0.06 points/year on the MRC scale. Using a hand-held dynamometer, a change in strength of 1.18 kgN/year for women and 1.61 kgN/year for men was detected.

Conclusions: The MRC scale is unsuitable for detecting the small changes in strength seen in a slowly progressive disease such as myotonic dystrophy. Dynamometry provides a simple alternative that can give meaningful data over the duration of a typical clinical trial.

  • DM1, myotonic dystrophy type 1
  • MRC, Medical Research Council

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Competing interests: None.