A Moment of Science

Chopsticks and Arthritis

Learn about the dangers of chopsticks on this Moment of Science.

If you’ve ever tried eating with chopsticks, you know they can be a pain to learn how to use. According to a Boston University study, ever since their invention nearly five-thousand years ago, chopsticks have been a source of literal pain by exacerbating the onset of osteoarthritis in old age.

Osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints caused by repeated use of a particular joint. Normally the ends of bones are covered with a shock-absorber-like pad of springy cartilage that helps bone ends move more easily.

Over time, repeated use of the joint can wear the cartilage down like the eraser on a frequently used pencil. When cartilage wears down, bone end rubs against bone end on a joint, causing stiffness and often extreme pain. Over time, an unprotected joint can become deformed and parts of the rubbing bones can wear away and chip off, causing even more discomfort.

What does this have to do with chopsticks? Any repetitive motion involving the fingers can amplify the effects of naturally occurring cartilage decay. If you’ve ever used chopsticks you know that pinching them together puts stress on the thumb and forefinger.

Imagine making this motion at every meal every day of your life and you begin to understand how chopsticks can harm your joints. According to the Boston University study, the thumb joint is the primary victim of chopstick use.

If you’re an adventurous diner and occasionally like to eat Asian food using authentic dining implements, don’t worry. Only regular use over many years is cause for alarm.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science