Does Cracking Your Knuckles Consistently Cause Any Side Effects
Theres no hard evidence that cracking your knuckles consistently causes any side effects. But when knuckle popping is accompanied by pain, there may be an underlying joint condition that could cause problems eventually.
Bursitis, tendonitis, loose cartilage, and injured ligaments can make knuckle popping painful. While the cracking itself isnt likely to cause problems, these underlying conditions can cause some degree of joint damage. Thats why, if you experience pain when you pop your knuckles, you should do your best to curb the habit.
Knuckle Cracking: Probably Safe
Doctors have debated for decades about why joints make that popping sound. The prevailing theory used to be that it was the sound of a bubble bursting in the synovial fluid that surrounds the joints, but current research suggests it is actually the creation of a cavity, or negative space, in the fluid that leads to the noise.
Expert Q& A: What Causes Noisy Joints
What causes joints to make snapping and popping noises, known as crepitus?
Question: I am a 20-year-old in okay shape and health, but the joints in my upper and lower back and shoulders are always stiff and snap all the time. Are noisy joints the sign of some problem?
A: Snapping and popping of joints is common. The sound you hear is caused by air bubbles in the synovial fluid the liquid that surrounds and lubricates your joints and by the snapping of tightly stretched ligaments as they slide off one bony surface onto another. This sound is sometimes called crepitus especially when you hear it in your knees going up and down stairs.
When not accompanied by pain, noisy joints are harmless. Nevertheless, I wouldnt recommend forcing joints to snap or pop. When joint cracking is accompanied by pain or swelling, it generally indicates some mechanical problem or disease activity within or around the joint, such as torn or frayed cartilage. If your noisy joints are accompanied by other symptoms, see a doctor.
Department of Rheumatic and Immunological Diseases
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Symptoms Of Joint Popping
Joint popping is characterized by audible sounds from within joints with joint movement. You may also feel the sensation of pressure being released when these pops occur, or other sensations like cracking and grinding within your joints.
Common areas of your body where your joints may pop include your:
Will I Get Arthritis From Cracking My Knuckles
Now, heres the good news
There is no scientific evidence that cracking your knuckles will have any adverse effect on youwhich basically means that cracking your knuckles isnt proven to lead to joint conditions like arthritis.
In fact, one study on knuckle cracking actually concludes that that habit is quite harmless after conducting experiments on himself. Over his entire lifetime, he regularly cracked knuckles on one hand and tracked its condition using x-rays over the span of decades. The study showed that there are no differences between his left or right hand. This was supported by a larger study who concluded the same thing.
That said, compulsive knuckle crackers arent completely off the hook.
Think of what it takes to get that satisfying crack. Bending your fingers forward and back, pulling it forcefully to get a pop, twisting and turning joints at odd anglesall these can actually take its toll on the joint and cause the cartilage to wear away over time when its done constantly.
Additionally, one study conducted back in the 90s found that people who regularly cracked their knuckles actually had weaker grip strengthon top of the possibility, albeit rare, of injuring yourself in your attempt to get a good pop.
Even if cracking knuckles is unlikely to cause arthritis, theres still good reason to stop the habit.
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What Happens When I Crack My Knuckles
Remember that chapter on bones from that anatomy class you took in high school? Here’s a quick recap. A joint is the point where two or more bones meet. Ligaments connect the bones to one another and a joint capsule surrounds it. Joint capsules have natural lubricants to help joints move smoothly. When you crack your knuckles, you pull the joint apart and expand the joint capsule. It forces gasses to release, resulting in that satisfying pop sound you hear when you’ve cracked your knuckles.
The reason why cracking your knuckles feels good is because it stretches the joint and stimulates the nerve endings. Repetitive and intentional joint cracking won’t cause cartilage damage or arthritis, but it may lead to other serious issues like instability within the joint and a loss of grip strength or hand function. If you’ve ever cracked your knuckles and felt pain, it could indicate loose cartilage or injured ligaments.
Cracking your knuckles can become a habit, and habits can be hard to break. My best advice is to find another go to when you want to crack your knuckles. It could be twiddling a pencil or coin between your fingers or talking a walk. Find somethingthat works for youto keep your hands busy.
Get a grip on your knuckle-cracking once and for all.
Does Popping Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis
There are a number of reasons why people crack their knuckles. For some people it relieves pain, for some theyve irritated the joint and it relieves pressure, and for others its just constant habit. So is the myth that popping your knuckles causes arthritis true?
First we must understand what the actual pop is in our knuckles.
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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.
Sros Hand And Wrist Center
If youre experiencing arthritis, pain, swelling, or other symptoms related to a hand or wrist injury, its essential to seek treatment right away. The specialists at SROs Hand and Wrist Center can help diagnose the damage and create a treatment plan that will have you back on your feet in no time. Learn more
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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.
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.
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Study Conclusions On Whether Knuckle Cracking Causes Arthritis
There have been a few studies over the years that considered whether or not cracking knuckles caused arthritis. One study found that there was no increase of hand arthritis among knuckle crackers, however, knuckle cracking was related to hand swelling and lower grip strength.
Another study indicated that while knuckle cracking was not associated with arthritis, it was associated with damage to ligaments that surround the joint and dislocation of tendons. While cracking your knuckles is not linked to causing arthritis, there may be a connection to soft tissue injuries.
A study from 2011 looked at 215 people who had a hand X-ray within the past five years. Its interesting that 20% of them were habitual knuckle-crackers. The good news for those folks is that they were at no greater risk for hand osteoarthritis and it didnt matter how long they had been knuckle-crackers or how often they did it each day.
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.
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Is It Bad To Crack Your Knuckles A Lot
Cracking your knuckles is bad for both the joints and ligaments in your hands and fingers. In severe cases, it can lead to finger dislocations and tendon injuries. These are short-term acute side effects that are painful to endure. They can require medical treatment and temporary swelling or loss of motion in the affected area. With costly X-rays and other imagery to identify the point of injury, cracking your knuckles the wrong way can cause extreme discomfort and lead to a large medical bill.
Cracking your knuckles a lot can also become distracting to others. If you’re sitting in a meeting at work, continuously popping your knuckles, other people are likely to noticeeven if it’s simply second nature to you.
It’s important to note that cracking your knuckles should never cause pain, swelling, or affect the shape of your joint or alignment of your finger. If you notice any of these effects, it’s time to see a doctor as soon as possible.
There are many wives’ tales and misconceptions about the long-term effects of cracking your knuckles excessively. Some say it makes your knuckles look larger over time and that it can lead to arthritis down the road. However, a peer-reviewed study in the journal of Arthritis and Rheumatology followed one doctor’s findings over 50 years. The experiment was interesting.
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 .
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Why Do Joints Make Noise
Although noisy joints are more common as people get older, anyone can experience the grinding, creaking, cracking, clicking, or popping sounds. These sounds can be muffled or easy to hear. Even though some people worry about them, joint noises are most often normal and do not usually require treatment or harm overall wellness.
For instance, noisy knees may be alarming, but no evidence suggests that knee sounds are associated with more knee joint problems. Some people intentionally pop their knuckles or other joints as a habit, but there is no proof that knuckle cracking causes permanent joint impairment.
The medical term for joint noises is crepitus. Here are some common causes:
- A tendon or ligament can make a noise when it snaps over a bump in your bone or joint.
- A ligament can tighten when you move, causing a snapping sound.
- Bubbles of air can pop inside the synovial fluid .
- Cartilage can wear away and cause osteoarthritis, in which rough areas in the joints make a grinding or crunching sound.
- Tendon injuries or inflammation , such as tennis elbow, can lead to popping sounds.
- Bursitis, which is the medical term for inflammation of fluid-filled joint cushions called bursae, can cause joint noises.
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.
Tips To Stop Cracking Your Knuckles
Although cracking your knuckles doesnt cause harm, it can be a little distracting to people around you. If it has become a habit youd like to break, consider why you do it and if there are any underlying issues.
- To lessen the urge try stretching every few hours clench your hands into a light fist then open wide apart, then repeat.
- Find another way to relieve stress meditation, deep breathing or exercise.
- Become aware of each time you crack your knuckles and consciously try to stop yourself aka willpower.
- Find something else to do with your hands eg. stress ball
Cracking your knuckles shouldnt cause injury. If you find that you have painful hands, swelling or a noticeable change in the shape of the joint, these are signs that you should seek the advice of a health professional.
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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What Are The Myths About Knuckle Cracking
1. Knuckle cracking causes early-onset arthritis and joint pain.
2. Knuckle cracking, in the long run, causes joint swelling and enlarged knuckles.
3. Knuckle cracking helps relieve stress and anxiety.
4. Knuckle cracking makes the joints more mobile and stretchable, boosting ones physical capabilities in sports.
5. Knuckle cracking relieves pain such as back pain and headache.
6. Knuckle cracking causes weakness of the adjoining muscles and weakens the grip.
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.
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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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Treatments Methods To Relieve Symptoms
Finger arthritis is easily diagnosed because it is common. Most treatments for finger arthritis will match treatments for arthritis in general. These can include medications like:
- Topical creams: These usually contain ingredients like capsaicin or diclofenac, which are applied over the skin around the joint and can relieve pain and soothe inflammation.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers: Acetaminophen , ibuprofen or naproxen sodium are common choices. Always take these in accordance with the guidance on the label.
- Prescription pain relievers: Celecoxib or tramadol . These are unlikely to be prescribed for mild symptoms.
Many patients also benefit from exercises to treat their finger arthritis. Some exercises that may help include:
- Make a fist: Slowly and deliberately form a fist, then release it until the fingers are straight again. This is a great way to get all your fingers and your whole hand moving at once, and its easy to do literally anywhere.
- Finger bends: Slowly bend each finger at each joint, holding it in each position for a few seconds. This is a great way to focus on an individual finger thats bothering you.
- Thumb bends: Gently touch your thumb to the base of your pinkie, or as close as you can comfortably reach.
- Finger lifts: Putting your hand flat on a table, gently lift each finger individually.
There are many more arthritis exercises than just these, so you can always talk to your doctor if you are unsure of what to do.
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