Is Cracking Your Knuckles Bad For You
The short answer? Probably not. Theres no evidence that shows knuckle-cracking is particularly harmful or beneficial for you. That said, one study published in 1990 compared people who habitually popped their knuckles and those who did not. Researchers found that people who cracked their knuckles regularly experienced more hand swelling and had lower grip strength than people who didnt crack their knuckles at all.
While the study did correlate negative side effects with regular knuckle popping, it also confirmed there was no difference in the incidence of arthritis between the two groups.
A much later study, conducted in 2017, called the results of the 1990 study into question, though. The 2017 study found that habitual knuckle-popping had no long-term side effects on hand swelling, grip strength, joint laxity, or joint range of motion.
Another study conducted by a California physician set out to determine whether regular knuckle-cracking would be detrimental over the long term. To gather evidence, he performed an experiment on himself, cracking the knuckles of his left hand at least twice a day over a period of 50 years. During that time, he rarely cracked the knuckles of his right hand.
At the end of the 50-year period, the doctor compared his hands to see if the left hand had suffered any negative side effects caused by knuckle-cracking. Both a visual exam and X-rays showed no difference between his left and right hand.
Other Habits Associated With Knuckle Cracking
One research study of 300 people reported that people who cracked their knuckles were more likely to have manual labor jobs and smoke.7
Manual labor can be a risk factor for osteoarthritis. If you have a manual labor job, finding ways to reduce daily stress on your joints may be more important than quitting knuckle cracking to lower your risk of arthritis.
Likewise, quitting smoking or other nicotine use can reduce your risk of serious medical problems, including lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease .
A More Permanent Solution Will Lessen The Chances Of Negative Side Effects
Most of the time we crack our joints because it gives us a soothing feeling and a sense of relief. But, the fact that more often than not we do it repeatedly is a surefire indicator that cracking joints is just a temporary solution.
Doctor of Physical Therapy and clinical director ofProfessional Physical Therapy, Amanda Brick, told The Thirty, when you crack your own back you may be targeting an area already under strain or compensating for other segments from abnormal movement patterns.
Basically, the reason we feel the need to crack a joint is because of tightness, discomfort, or improper movement of the bones and musculature surrounding a joint, but we arent actually getting to the root of the problem when we self-crack. She goes on to say that healthy stretching is a better option that will still help to relieve pressure.
Overall, we should really leave the cracking to the professionals like chiropractors and physical therapists, who can help us figure out whats causing the frequent need to crack joints and give us precise adjustments to feel and move better.
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Will Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis
The Department of Orthopedics noted there is no evidence that knuckle cracking causes arthritis. However, repeatedly cracking your knuckles may cause temporary soreness of the joint. Knuckles are the joints between your fingers and your hands. These joints are surrounded and lubricated by synovial fluid, a thick, clear liquid. When you crack your knuckles, youre causing the bones of the joint to pull apart. This causes a gas bubble to form in the joint. The cracking or popping sound you hear is the breaking of the adhesive seal in the joint.
The repetitive motion of cracking your knuckles wears down the joints and their protective cushioning. This means individuals who currently have osteoarthritis, caused by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints, could worsen their symptoms by cracking their knuckles repeatedly. However, cracking your knuckles plays no role in rheumatoid arthritis, which is caused when a persons own immune system attacks their joints.
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How To Stop Cracking Your Knuckles
Given the fact that cracking your knuckles could cause decreased hand strength and lead to injury, you might want to consider stopping the popping habit. In order to do so, youll want to take a close look at why you crack your knuckles and address any associated issues.
For instance, if youre cracking your knuckles because youre anxious, address the reasons for your anxiety. Consider alternate activities to reduce tension and stress, such as meditation, deep breathing or exercise, like yoga. An alternative to cracking your knuckles could be to squeeze a stress ball.
If you decide to continue cracking your knuckles, its good to know that doing so probably wont harm you. Unless you count the noise complaints when you crack them!
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Does Cracking Knuckles Cause Arthritis
Written byDr. Victor MarchionePublished onJanuary 21, 2017
Youve most likely heard the phrase, Dont crack your knuckles or youll get arthritis. This may have stopped you for the time being, but when no one was around, you probably went right back to it.But does the saying hold any truth, or is it just an old wives tale? Are we causing ourselves long-term harm by giving our knuckles a good crack?
While there hasnt been extensive research on the topic, you may be able to rest easy after hearing about the study findings. So, for all of you knuckle crackers, have yourself a good read, because this ones for you.
The Truth And The Myth Behind The Cracking Knuckles Debate
Cracking your knuckles may aggravate the people around you, but it probably won’t raise your risk for arthritis. That’s the conclusion of several studies that compared rates of hand arthritis among habitual knuckle-crackers and people who didn’t crack their knuckles.
The “pop” of a cracked knuckle is caused by bubbles bursting in the synovial fluid the fluid that helps lubricate joints. The bubbles pop when you pull the bones apart, either by stretching the fingers or bending them backward, creating negative pressure. One study’s authors compared the sudden, vibratory energy produced during knuckle cracking to “the forces responsible for the destruction of hydraulic blades and ship propellers.”
Even if knuckle cracking doesn’t cause arthritis, there’s still good reason to let go of the habit. Chronic knuckle-cracking may lead to reduced grip strength. And there are at least two published reports of injuries suffered while people were trying to crack their knuckles.
For more information on keeping your hand healthy, nimble, and strong, buy Hands: Strategies for Strong, Pain-Free Hands, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
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What The Research Says About Knuckle Cracking
Several studies have been done to determine if knuckle cracking is associated with arthritis. To date, no link has been found.
In one report, researchers from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences examined a group of 215 people. Twenty percent of them said they cracked their knuckles regularly.
Results showed 18.1 percent of those participants who cracked their knuckles and 21.5 percent of those who didnt had arthritis in their hands. The investigators concluded that the chance of having arthritis was about the same in both groups.
In 1998, Dr. Donald Unger performed an informal study that was published as a letter to the editor in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism. As part of his experiment, the doctor cracked the knuckles on his left hand at least twice a day for 50 years, while leaving the knuckles on his right hand alone to serve as a control.
Dr. Unger estimated that the knuckles on his left hand were cracked at least 36,500 times. In his letter, he concluded that after 50 years, neither of his hands showed symptoms of arthritis, and there were no differences between the two hands.
The results of a study published in 2017 agreed with Dr. Ungers conclusions. Researchers found knuckle crackers had the same level of physical function as those who didnt crack their knuckles.
While research overwhelming suggests that knuckle cracking doesnt lead to arthritis, the following can increase your risk of developing the condition:
- a previous joint injury
So I Can Crack My Knuckles Freely Theres No Risk Of Arthritis
There are several types of arthritis, but knuckle-cracking is most commonly associated with osteoarthritis. In simple terms, Osteoarthritis is a disease where the articular cartilage, located at the end of the bone on each joint, starts to break down and flake off, causing pain, stiffness and swelling over time, Dr. Fackler explains.
Osteoarthritis is age- and genetic-relatedand people dont get significant osteoarthritis until theyre in their 40s, 50s or older, Dr. Fackler says. The vast majority of arthritis patients have a genetic predisposition to the disease. However, if you have an injury when youre young or tear a ligament or meniscus, that puts you at higher risk for arthritis when you get older.
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How It Affects Your Joints
Although cracking your knuckles regularly can be relatively harmless, it can also cause damage if its done incorrectly or too frequently. If you pull or crack your knuckles incorrectly, you can actually cause a ligament injury or even dislocate your fingers. If you notice sudden pain or swelling after cracking your knuckles, you may have caused an injury to your joint ant you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
Cracking your knuckles consistently can also wear away the cartilage in your joints over time, resulting in pain-causing inflammation within your joints.
Cracking Sounds You Don’t Intend
People with arthritis of the hands or other conditions such as bursitis and tendinitis may feel snapping of the tendons and hear cracking sounds as the tendons can’t glide easily over the swollen tissues. These sounds and sensations may be why some think painless knuckle cracking might lead to arthritis. But they are not actually associated.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Arthritis
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If youre constantly crack your knuckles, youve probably been warned off doing it by your friends, family, or coworkers. You might have even been told that cracking your knuckles breaks the bones of your dead ancestors. For some reason, many people seem to believe that cracking your knuckles can cause athritis later in life, but does it really?
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When To See A Doctor
Cracking your knuckles doesnt cause harm, so it shouldnt be painful, cause swelling, or change the shape of the joint. These are signs that something is wrong, and you should be evaluated by your doctor.
Injuring your finger by pulling very forcefully or moving it in the wrong direction is usually very painful. Your finger may look crooked or start to swell. If this happens, you should see your doctor right away.
If you notice your joints are painful or swollen while cracking your knuckles, its likely due to an underlying condition and should be evaluated by your doctor.
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So I Can Crack My Knuckles Freely There’s No Risk Of Arthritis
There are several types of arthritis, but knuckle-cracking is most commonly associated with osteoarthritis. In simple terms, “Osteoarthritis is a disease where the articular cartilage, located at the end of the bone on each joint, starts to break down and flake off,” causing pain, stiffness and swelling over time, Dr. Fackler explains.
“Osteoarthritis is age- and genetic-related…and people don’t get significant osteoarthritis until they’re in their 40s, 50s or older,” Dr. Fackler says. “The vast majority of arthritis patients have a genetic predisposition to the disease. However, if you have an injury when you’re young or tear a ligament or meniscus, that puts you at higher risk for arthritis when you get older.”
Does Cracking Your Knuckles Really Cause Arthritis
- Does Cracking Your Knuckles Really Cause Arthritis?
It has long been believed by the general public that the sometimes satisfying, sometimes annoying habit of cracking your knuckles causes arthritis down the line, but does it really? The short answer is no. But before we get into the effects of cracking your knuckles, lets figure out exactly what is going on in your fingers.
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But Wait There’s More Here’s What You Shouldn’t Crack
Dr. Fackler advises avoiding popping the neck, as it can cause inflammation around the nerves and lead to more serious injuries long-term. “I encourage people not to habitually pop their necks, especially kids.”
So, as it turns out, you can crack your knuckles, limitlessly, without the consequences of arthritis. Just don’t be too caught off guard if your rings fit a little tighter after a knuckle-cracking session. Cracking knuckles can cause temporary swelling or a subtle increase in the size of your hands, but is ultimately harmless. “There are no long-term studies that show knuckle-cracking causes any damage,” Dr. Fackler says. Until then, “When it comes to your fingers, don’t even worry about it.”
Snap, crackle and pop away.
What Does Cause Hand Arthritis
Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage a tough slippery substance that coats the ends of the joints breaks down. Over time, as the cartilage continues to wear away, the bones rub together, which makes movement difficult and painful. Causes of arthritis include wear-and-tear that occurs with age, repetitive hand motions , prior injuries, and possibly a genetic predisposition. There is not much you can do to prevent arthritis in the hands.
So, if you want to crack your knuckles, crack away and tell your mom that she has to come up with a better reason than arthritis to get you to stop.
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Question: Are There Any Side Effects To Cracking Knuckles
There is no evidence that cracking knuckles causes any damage such as arthritis in the joints. However, a couple of reports in the medical literature are available associating knuckle cracking with injury of the ligaments surrounding the joint or dislocation of the tendons which improved with conservative treatment. A study found that after many years of cracking habitual knuckle crackers may have reduced grip strength compared with people not cracking their knuckles.
Cracking Knuckles Offers Relief
What exactly is going on in our hands when we crack our knuckles? Well, for starters, youre not actually cracking anything. The cause is not definitive, but one theory is gas movement: Imagine a Champagne bottle thats been shaken. Once the cork has been popped, all those bubbles come rushing up to create an explosion. This is similar to what is going on in your knuckles. What youre hearing is gas moving from the spaces in between your joints. This gas starts off as small bubbles in the connective fluid within our joints when the gas in the bubbles is pushed out, it creates larger bubbles that pop. Once this gas is released, it takes about 15 minutes or more for the joints to go back to their normal size. Thats why you cant crack the same knuckle twice right away.
Why do we do it anyway? Cracking our knuckles can offer some relief from stiffness, as we are stretching the joint and also stimulating the nerves, which can last up to about 30 minutes. In fact, people can crack several joints in their bodies, including the hips, wrists, elbows, back and neck vertebrae, toes, shoulders, feet, jaws, ankles, and Achilles tendon. Foot cracking can be a great part of a therapeutic foot massage!
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To Crack Or Not To Crack
You may still be wondering where the idea of arthritis being linked to knuckle cracking originated? Its hard to truly tell where most myths originate, but it may have to do with arthritis sufferers noticing their joints cracking. Nowadays, the causes of arthritis are better understoodjoint inflammation linked to the natural wear and tear on the cartilage, family history, and previous injuries.
Although the clinical evidence is sparse, its safe to say you wont develop arthritis through cracking your knuckles. So, if youre still on the fence whether to crack or not to crack, go with whatever feels good.
Is Knuckle Cracking Harmful In Other Ways
While knuckle cracking isnt associated with arthritis, it has been connected to other problems with the hands. These include occasional dislocations or tendon injuries when the knuckle cracking is overly forceful. Cracking your knuckles has also been associated with decreased grip strength with aging. This can mean having more difficulty opening jars and even turning knobs.
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Reasons To Stop Cracking Knuckles
In general, crepitus is harmless and doesnt necessarily signal a health problem like arthritis. However, the act of cracking ones knuckles may stress joints in ways that are completely unnecessary and gratuitous. Frequent knuckle crackers should particularly avoid this habit if it is accompanied by pain, swelling, or immobility in the joint.
As quoted in Arthritis Health, a recent study of 300 patients found that knuckle crackers generally had weaker grips and were more likely to have swelling in their hands.