A study of more than 2,500 residents of Beijing found that osteoarthritis was more common in the hands used to operate chopsticks -- and in the fingers specifically stressed by chopstick use.
While the effect is not big, and not likely to discourage anyone from using chopsticks, it merits further study, the researchers told a meeting of the American College of Rheumatology Orlando, Florida.
Dr. David Hunter of the Boston University School of Medicine and colleagues interviewed 2,507 60-year-old residents in randomly selected Beijing neighborhoods.
They asked them whether they were left- or right-handed, especially when eating, studied how they handled their chopsticks and took X-rays.
Each joint was checked for signs of osteoarthritis, and then the team compared how many people had arthritis in the chopstick-using hand as opposed to the other hand.
Arthritis was more likely in the chopstick-using hands -- specifically the thumb and the second and third joints on the first and third fingers.
"This study suggests that chopsticks may play a role in the development of hand osteoarthritis," Hunter said in a statement.
"While the increase in risk associated with chopstick use is small, this accounts for a large proportion of the osteoarthritis in these joint groups. We recommend further biomechanical research to evaluate the forces involved in chopstick use."
Hunter noted that other studies have shown that using the hands repetitively can stress the joints and cause arthritis.