To investigate the association of radiographic finger osteoarthritis (OA), hand use, and lifestyle factors with incident and persistent finger joint pain among female dentists and teachers.


Random samples of female dentists (n = 295) and teachers (n = 248) ages 45–63 years were examined by radiography for the presence of finger joint OA. Body weight was measured. Information on finger joint pain during the past 30 days, height, smoking, and leisure-time hand activity was collected by questionnaire. Five years later, 482 women (89%; 65% still active occupationally) responded to a survey on finger joint pain.


The incidence and persistence of finger joint pain were higher among the subjects with OA compared to those without OA. The relative risk (RR) of incident pain in the first through the third fingers was 1.8 (95% confidence interval [95% CI] 1.2–2.7) in the right hand and the RR in the left hand was 3.0 (95% CI 2.0–4.6), allowing for age, occupation, and lifestyle factors. The corresponding figures for the fourth and fifth fingers were RR 2.3 (95% CI 1.4–3.8) in the right and RR 1.9 (95% CI 1.1–3.5) in the left hand. Regarding persistent pain, the RRs varied between 2.4 and 5.4. Body mass index, smoking, or leisure-time hand activity were not associated with pain. The dentists tended to have a higher incidence of pain in the first through the third fingers of the right hand compared with the teachers.


Radiographic finger joint OA was a significant determinant of both persistent and incident finger joint pain in a 5-year followup among middle-aged women. Hand use may modify the association between radiographic OA and finger joint pain.