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From the Current Issue

New Research:
Flexible Hands May Be Less Prone to Arthritis

People with unusually flexible fingers may be able to dodge hand arthritis, a study suggests.

Researchers found that among 1,043 adults with a family history of hand arthritis, the roughly 4% with extremely flexible, or "hypermobile,” joints were two thirds less likely than less-flexible men and women to have osteoarthritis in the middle joint of the finger.

The findings are somewhat unexpected because hypermobility has been suspected of promoting osteoarthritis; extreme range of motion in a joint may place it under abnormal patterns of stress and possibly raise the odds of injury—two factors that can predispose to arthritis. But in this study, flexibility appeared protective against hand arthritis, even though participants were at elevated risk for the disorder owing to family history.

Researchers used standard tests to measure flexibility, including two that looked at how far backward the little finger and thumb could bend. An analysis of a subgroup of participants showed that all with hypermobility had highly flexible fingers. According to the researchers, hypermobility may alter the stress that gripping and pinching motions place on the hand joints.

Arthritis & Rheumatism
Volume 50, page 2178
July 2004



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The arthritis White Paper from The Johns Hopkins White Papers series is an annual, in-depth report written by Hopkins physicians.



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