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Can Popping Your Fingers Cause Arthritis

What To Do If You Have Arthritis

Does Knuckle Cracking Cause Arthritis?

Deal recommends you stay active and maintain a healthy diet and weight to manage arthritis. At home, enjoy a paraffin bath. The warm wax limbers the tissues and allows mobility in the joints.

Use medical intervention when needed, Deal advises.

You can manage arthritis pain with physical or hand therapy, finger splints and by modifying your activity. Medication options include cortisone shots or anti-inflammatory medications.

If needed, surgery can help. Depending on where you have arthritis, knuckle replacements or joint fusions can successfully relieve symptoms. Surgery even prevents the treated area from developing arthritis again.

Sensitivity To The Cold

Most people with systemic sclerosis develop an unusual sensitivity to the cold, known as Raynauds phenomenon.

Fingers or toes turn white then blue in the cold. Just walking into a cold room or reaching into a fridge or freezer can make this happen. The colour returns to normal as the hands or feet warm up.

Raynauds phenomenon is caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels, which reduces the blood supply to the fingers or toes. Stressful situations can also cause the blood supply to reduce in the hands and bring on an episode of Raynauds.

Many people have Raynauds without ever having systemic sclerosis. However, most people with systemic sclerosis will have symptoms of Raynauds at some time during their illness.

Raynauds is often the first sign that someone has systemic sclerosis. It can sometimes appear years before the onset of systemic sclerosis.

Is Popping Your Knuckles Bad For You

Whether in children or adults, frequent popping, snapping, and cracking of the hands, feet, and joints often causes alarm and concern in parents and loved ones as well as minor annoyance. Patients suffering from arthritis of the hand and finger also worry whether excessive knuckle popping can damage or worsen their condition.

Is popping your knuckles bad for you? And if not, are there ever any signs that it is? Thats what well tackle in todays post on the science behind knuckle popping.

Recommended Reading: How To Reduce Arthritis Swelling In Fingers

Is Cracking Your Joints Dangerous

You’ve probably heard the old saying that cracking your joints gives you arthritis – but is there any truth in it? The truth is all our joints can crack naturally on their own, so it’s not as dangerous as you might think.

Reviewed byDr Sarah Jarvis MBE
12-Nov-20·5 mins read

Dr Daniel Murphy of charity Versus Arthritis, and osteopath Hannah Williams, owner of Burton Joyce Osteopathy, explain why our joints crack and if it’s safe.

Question: What Causes Arthritis

Can cracking your knuckles cause arthritis?

Answer: There are different kinds of arthritis with the major categories being two: The inflammatory arthritides such as the rheumatoid arthritis and the degenerative arthritis best known as osteoarthritis or wear and tear arthritis. The causes for either are not well known and research focuses on elucidating the mechanisms leading to these diseases. In general a genetic predisposition is highly likely for both. For the inflammatory arthritis an unknown exposure to environmental stimuli is considered possible. For the wear and tear arthritis instead, aging and excessive mechanical stress may play a role in accelerating the damage in the joints as it happens in the knees of genetically predisposed older obese people.

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What Is Cracking Your Knuckles

The first thing to know is that there is no actual cracking going on. Joints are covered by the synovial capsule. Inside the capsule is synovial fluid which helps lubricate the joint. Gases are continuously dissolved in the synovial fluid. When you crack your knuckle, you stretch the capsule which lowers the pressure and creates a vacuum. A bubble of gas is formed and due to the pressure from when you bent your finger, it bursts, creating the popping or cracking sound you hear.

A Bigger Risk For Some

While for most of us cracking our joints is relatively safe there are some who are more at risk from serious complications.

“Cracking joints is relatively safe however, cracking joints in the spine and neck can, in rare instances, cause some serious issues,” Dr Murphy says. “It can damage the vertebral discs between the bones of the spine, cause damage to the spinal cord or cause damage to the major blood vessels which run between the bones of the neck to our brains.”

Dr Murphy says suggests anyone with a history of strokes, injuries to their neck, or problems with blood vessels, people taking blood-thinning medication, and people with arthritis should avoid cracking their back and neck. The same rules apply when seeing a professional to manipulate your neck and back, Dr Murphy adds.

Williams says: “Most joints in the body can be manipulated, but most commonly in practice it’s a technique used on the spine. It often happens naturally as we move around so if you roll over in bed and hear a few clunks, it’s generally nothing to worry about.”

There are conditions which mean spinal manipulation is not appropriate, she adds, including:

  • Fracture.
  • 4min

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If Someones Nagging You To Stop Your Knuckle Cracking Show Them This

Do you wince when people crack their knuckles? Or gasp are *you* the knuckle cracker in the room everyone stares at?

If you are a knuckle cracker, has anyone ever tried to get you to stop by warning you that your annoying hand habit will lead to osteoarthritis ?

Well sorry, mom theres no evidence to back up the claim that joint cracking can lead to arthritis.

Here, we address the finer points of cracking joints:

What Happens When You Crack Your Knuckles

Does cracking your knuckes cause Arthritis?

The need to pop your joints is a medical mystery. No one really knows why this phenomenon exists or its purpose. The mechanics behind joints cracking is well understood, though. A joint is an intersection where two bones connect. The human body has around 360 joints that bring bones together to form a skeleton that is able to bend and move freely.

Joints are surrounded by a membrane full of fluid. The membrane serves to protect the bone caps from friction damage as you move. When you yank on a joint trying to pop it, you create negative space that pulls in some of the fluid. That popping sound that makes Mom cringe is the influx of that fluid.

Also Check: What To Take To Prevent Arthritis

The True Cause Of Pain & Swelling With Arthritis

Osteoarthritis, or what most people refer to as arthritis, happens when the cartilage breaks down on the surface of the bone. Joints are supposed to be smooth and glide together, but over time, rough spots appear. Arthritis occurs when you have rough spots on top of rough spots. Once you have it, it continues to get worse.

Diagnosing arthritis requires identifying your symptoms. X-rays can show loss of cartilage, bone spurs or even bone rubbing against bone.

So Can Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis

No and theres ample scientific research to back up why not. A 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine looked at 215 people between ages 50 and 89 who had had an X-ray of their right hand during the previous five years. The researchers found a similar incidence of knuckle OA in any one joint among people who said they cracked their knuckles and those who didnt, irrespective of how frequently or for how many years the person cracked.

Another study, published in a 1998 issue of the journal Arthritis and Rheumatology, was done by a single doctor who experimented on his own hands. Over his lifetime, he cracked the knuckles of one hand, but not the other. After decades of this behavior, he took X-rays and found that both hands had the exact same incidence of arthritis.

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Types Of Finger Arthritis

There are three types of arthritis that commonly affect the fingers:

  • Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis, also called wear-and-tear arthritis, is the most common type of finger arthritis. Osteoarthritis causes normal cartilage to wear away. This exposes bare bone at the joints. The most frequently affected joints in the hand are the knuckles of the mid-finger and fingertip and the joint at the base of the thumb.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis causes a different type of joint destruction. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that affects the whole body. It causes the immune system to attack the soft tissues surrounding the joints. The most commonly affected joints in the hand are the knuckles at the base of the fingers .
  • Gout: Gout is a condition that occurs when crystals develop within the joints. These crystals can form in one or more joints when there is too much of a substance called uric acid in the body. While the big toe is the most commonly affected part of the body, gout can also develop in finger joints.

Rarely, other types of arthritis can also cause problems in the fingers.

Will Cracking Your Fingers Cause Arthritis

Does Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis ...

The symptoms of arthritis depend on the type that you have and the location. Common forms of arthritis include osteoarthritis, caused by wear and tear on the joints rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own joints and gout, caused by a buildup of uric acid in the body. Symptoms of arthritis include: joint pain and tenderness, inflammation in and around the joints, restricted movement of the joints, and warm, red skin over the affected joint.

Have you heard someone in your life say time and time again, Stop cracking your knuckles, you will get arthritis. Believe it or not, that notion is untrue. There is no scientific evidence that has conclusively shown that cracking your knuckles leads to arthritis. Cracking knuckles is still a bad nervous habit to some, and studies have shown that between 25 and 54 percent of people do it to relieve nerves and tension.

All the joints in our bodies are surrounded by a thick, clear liquid called synovial fluid. When you stretch or bend your fingers to pop the knuckles, you are causing the bones of the joint to pull apart. Therefore, when you crack your knuckles, the popping sound that you hear is due to the formation and buildup of bubbles and gas in the synovial fluid.

To find out if you may be suffering from arthritis, call Spectrum Orthopaedics at our North Canton office at 305-0838 / 469-2663 or use our online appointment request form.

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Possible Changes In The Hand

Research suggests people who often crack their knuckles may have:

  • More swelling in their hands7
  • A weaker grip7
  • A slightly larger range of motion in their hands8,9while this seems like a good thing, hypermobility can put a joint at risk of osteoarthritis and other injuries
  • Signs of cartilage changes in their knuckle joints that indicate possible scarring and a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis1

Like the research regarding knuckle cracking and arthritis, the research regarding these potential effects also sometimes conflicts. For example, the same study1 that reported knuckle crackers had cartilage changes did not find they had weaker grip strength.

Studies examining knuckle cracking tend to be small, ranging from 35 to 300 people. Also, most compare knuckle crackers and non-crackers at a single point in time. Larger, longer-term studies that measure changes in hands over time are necessary to draw more clear conclusions.

Are There Any Risks Of Joint Cracking

There has been some research indicating that longtime knuckle crackers may experience hand swelling and a reduced hand grip over time, but there is still no evidence that cracking your knuckles causes arthritis.

However, if theres pain that accompanies your knuckle cracking, it could mean that there are other problems with the structure of the joint, according to WebMD, such as loose cartilage or injured ligaments. And some people with arthritis, bursitis, or tendinitis might notice cracking sounds because of the snapping of their swollen tissues.

If you feel pain when your knuckles crack, you should see a doctor to figure out why.

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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

Cracking Your Knuckles May Be Annoying But Is Not Harmful

Does Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis?

For many years people have asserted that cracking your knuckles will make them fat or give you arthritis. Studies, however, have consistently shown that cracking your knuckles does not improve or harm your joints. There is no proven link between arthritis of any kind and cracking your knuckles.

There is one thing that you should be aware of though, if the cracking causes pain, then you may have legitimate cause for concern. An injury to a joint, even a severe sprain, can make you seven times more likely to develop osteoarthritis in later years.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, osteoarthritis affects an estimated 27 million people in the United States alone. Osteoarthritis is associated with damage due to wear and tear as well as injuries to joints, bones, tendons and ligaments.

Additionally, some patients who have tendinitis or bursitis say that they do notice more frequent cracking sounds around inflamed, often painful joints. This is due to an underlying abnormality caused by joint damage. The tissues are swollen, which causes interference with their motion that may become audible.

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Immunosuppressive Drugs To Treat Systemic Sclerosis

Immunosuppressive drugs target the immune system and may be used in more severe cases of systemic sclerosis, especially where the skin or lung disease is more extensive.

These could include drugs which are known as conventional disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs .

These drugs which have the effect of reducing the effectiveness of an overactive and misfiring immune system, include methotrexate, ciclosporin, cyclophosphamide, mycophenolate and azathioprine. It will depend on how systemic sclerosis affects you as to whether you will be prescribed any of these drugs.

The biological therapy rituximab is sometimes used to treat severe cases of systemic sclerosis. Biological therapies are newer drugs that have a more targeted approach. They reduce the effectiveness of key cells in the immune system that may be causing problems.

Can Popping Your Joints Cause Arthritis

Can you believe all those things Mom used to tell you? What about what she said about cracking your knuckles? Could that really give you arthritis or is it just something she made up to get you to stop making that annoying noise?

There are a lot of medical myths floating around these days thanks to the Internet and wel start with the real truth behind cracking knuckles.

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Should You Be Worried About Popping Your Knuckles

Fortunately, the general consensus of the medical community is that knuckle popping is not an unhealthy habit and does not cause or increase a patients risk of developing arthritis. Several studies found no evidence that knuckle popping leads to joint damage, loss of cartilage, or chronic diseases such as arthritis.

Knuckle popping accompanied by pain, swelling, or discomfort, on the other hand, is a cause for concern. This may indicate that something beyond simple knuckle popping is going on and you should be evaluated by a qualified doctor.

Heres Some Of What We Know About Knuckle Cracking

Will cracking your knuckles really cause arthritis ...
  • The “cracking” of knuckle cracking seems to be produced by increasing the space between finger joints. This causes gas bubbles in the joint fluid to collapse or burst. Its a bit like blowing up a balloon and then stretching the walls of the balloon outward until it pops.
  • The reason you cant crack the same knuckle or joint twice right away is that it takes some time for the gas bubbles to accumulate again in the joint.
  • Cracking the knuckles is probably harmless. Although there have been occasional reports of dislocations or tendon injuries from overly vigorous knuckle cracking, such problems seem very much to be the exception and not the rule.

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How Arthritis In The Hands Is Treated

If youre diagnosed with an inflammatory form of arthritis, you have more treatment options than someone with OA. While nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help manage the pain of both types of arthritis, the development of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs and biologics has vastly improved the prognosis of those with inflammatory forms of arthritis by reducing inflammation and preventing further joint damage.

Cortisone injections can be useful for those with OA and conditions such as RA, though theyre usually used in patients whose inflammatory arthritis is limited to just one or two joints, Dr. Byram says. Injections of hyaluronic acid can be helpful for those with OA , but these are better for managing pain in larger joints like the knees rather than the hands.

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