From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Chopsticks: An Ergonomic Nightmare?

For any Westerner who can’t figure out how to pick up rice with a skinny pair of chopsticks, you may now be justified in requesting a fork. According to a new study, those sometimes tricky but stylish utensils that make any Asian dining experience seem a little more authentic just aren’t all that ergonomic.

Chopsticks, indicates a recent study headed by Boston University’s David J. Hunter, may be a contributor to the development of age-related arthritis in regular users of the utensils. According to Hunter’s research, it’s the repetitive nature of these implements that can cause problems. And, while genetics may make people more susceptible to developing arthritis, the pinching motions used with chopsticks have been found to be an aggravator as well.

Through x-rays and questionnaires of 2,500 Beijing residents, each around 70 years old, Hunter found that the hand that used the chopsticks suffered more damage than the non-chopstick using hand, even in respondents who were primarily ambidextrous but who preferred one hand specifically for manipulating chopsticks. Hunter’s study indicated that the joint within the thumb was the most susceptible to chopstick-triggered arthritis and accounted for “about 35 percent of the risk of its developing osteoarthritis,” said Hunter in an article on Science News Online. Knuckles and the joint above the knuckles on the index finger and middle finger were also susceptible but to a lesser degree.

While the researchers didn’t initially expect to find a connection between chopsticks and arthritis, says Hunter, now that they have, the next step will be to design more “ergonomically friendly chopsticks.” So is this study license for Westerners to toss their chopsticks and go back to the fork? No, says Hunter, indicating that long-term exposure to chopsticks is possibly one of the other contributing risk factors. “Social” use of chopsticks, he says, probably won’t have an impact.

Source: Science News Online