There is hope for your thumb!
I have the same problem....In both hands! :-/
The frame grip is helpful, without a doubt. Use the hive tool to get the frames apart enough to lift with the gripper, you just have to gently and slowly jostle the frame upward, until your other hand can assist. Then, you can use your hands to manipulate the frame as you wish -I also find the frames drawn without foundation more difficult to manage. As you replace the frame, the gripper helps get the frame back into position without slipping and causing an uproar with the bees (like when you drop the frame unintentionally as you place it back in the super -if you lose your grip frequently, then you know why I say this here).
As to physical therapy....It hasn't been helpful to me, but there is therapy for it. Mostly centered around getting the thumb muscles to relax to get the natural range of motion back, then concentrating on strength after that. The injections (for pain) into the joint at the base of the thumb are horrific, but affective! I'm letting the bees sting my hands whenever they want....It is just as affective as the $200 shot every 90 days (and, hurts less).
You may have carpal tunnel syndrome, or, cubital tunnel syndrome, or both. There is surgery for that. Those two surgeries made my grip worse by one third (from 155 pounds of grip to 98 in one fell swoop of the knife, would not do that again!).
The more bulky the grippers, the better they will compensate for your loss of grip strength -like the fat pens for old people. My grippers are pretty bulky and I like them that way (bought in 1970's). The grippers handle the wooden frames more securely than the plastic frames, use wood frames with the grippers. HTH
P.S. If you discover something I didn't mention here, let me know please.
P.P.S. I think that overuse of the hive tool will crush more bees than using the gripper.
Last edited by Lburou; 08-04-2012 at 06:23 PM.
I try to learn from my mistakes, and from yours when you give me a heads up :)