Chopstick Use May Lead to Aching Hands

Stress of Repetitive Chopstick Use Can Cause Osteoarthritis of the Hand

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on October 24, 2003
From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 24, 2003 -- Never quite mastered the art of using chopsticks? Don't fret; new research suggests that you may actually be doing your hands a favor by sticking with a fork.

The study shows people who use chopsticks on a daily basis are more likely to develop hand osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis that is often due to excessive use of joints.

Researchers say using chopsticks places stress on particular joints in the first, second, and third fingers, which may increase the risk of osteoarthritis in these joints.

The results of the study were presented this week at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Chopstick Use Stresses Hands

Researchers studied more than 2,500 Chinese adults with an average age of 60 and asked them whether they were right-handed or left-handed and which hand they preferred while eating with chopsticks or performing other grip-related activities.

The participants also underwent hand X-rays to look for joint damage due to osteoarthritis.

The study showed that osteoarthritis was more common in the joints involved in chopstick use compared with non-chopstick joints.

In addition, participants who were ambidextrous (had no hand preference in general) but had a preferred hand for chopstick use were more likely to have osteoarthritis in that preferred hand. This suggests that the osteoarthritis was due to chopstick use rather than other activities involving the hands.

The study also showed that 26% of the participants had evidence of osteoarthritis in their thumb, and chopstick use accounted for 20% of the risk of developing this in men and 37% in women.

"While the increase in risk associated with chopstick use is small, this accounts for a large proportion of the osteoarthritis in these joint groups," says researcher David Hunter, MD, assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine, in a news release.

Researchers say these findings are in line with previous studies that have shown occupational groups exposed to repetitive use of small hand joints also have higher than normal rates of hand osteoarthritis in those joints.

Show Sources

SOURCES: American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting, Orlando, Fla., Oct. 23-28, 2003. News release, American College of Rheumatology.

© 2003 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info