Youve Probably Heard That Cracking Your Knuckles Causes Arthritis But Is That The Truth Or Just A Long
If youve made a habit of cracking your knuckles, youve probably had someone tell you to stop that well-meaning friend or family member might have even warned you that habitual knuckle-cracking could cause arthritis.
But does cracking your knuckles really cause chronic problems with your joints? Lets find out.
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To sum it all up, knuckle cracking hasnt beenshown to be either harmful or beneficial. It doesnt lead to arthritis so ifyou feel like cracking your knuckles and it doesnt cause pain, crackaway.
If you have any more questions about knucklecracking and the health of your joints, reach outto the Baptist Health Orthopedic team to schedule an appointment.
What Is Cracking When I Crack My Knuckles
When you hear your joints snap, crack and pop, the noise is coming from nitrogen bubbles that are bursting in your synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is found in the cavities of synovial joints.The principal role of this fluid is to reduce friction between the cartilages of the joints during movement.
Synovial fluid is made of hyaluronic acid and lubricin, as well as dissolved gasses such as oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. When you crack your knuckles, the pressure inside the joint capsule expands and the dissolved gasses escape out of the fluid, causing the pop sound.
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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. It’s 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 didn’t matter how long they had been knuckle-crackers or how often they did it each day.
Arthritis Can Cause Knuckle Pain
Even when it first starts developing, arthritis often causes pain in your knuckles. This pain may be at its worst after you use your hands for long periods of time. Activities like typing, cooking, and cleaning all of which can be normal parts of everyday life can all become very difficult and painful in cases of advanced arthritis.
The pain caused by arthritis tends to be on-and-off at first. You may notice a correlation between increased pain and certain activities, such as the ones listed above. However, knuckle pain from arthritis can be unpredictable. Sometimes, you might experience pain even after you havent moved your fingers in several hours.
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Does Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis
Anxiety, restlessness or just pure pleasure there are lots of reasons why many find comfort in cracking their knuckles. But, does it cause arthritis? The short answer is no.
According to Houston Methodist Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Dr. John Fackler, “There are no known detrimental effects to cracking your knuckles.” At worst, knuckle-cracking may cause temporary swelling or a feeling of weakness in the hands but arthritis, not quite.
True Or False: Cracking Your Knuckles Can Lead To Arthritis
Crack. Pop. Click. These sounds jump from the joints of the many children and adults who are in the habit of cracking their knuckles.
If you cracked your knuckles as a child, you may have been warned that it could cause you to developarthritis later in life. Is this true? Probably not, according to a handful of studies on the subject. While cracking your knuckles may not cause arthritis, some researchers believe that habitual cracking could create some problems later on. Not to mention that the incessant pops and clicks are likely to be a major annoyance to those around you.
Your knuckles are the joints in your fingers and toes. They are located where two bones meet, and they are bathed in a liquid calledsynovial fluid, which lubricates the joints. Sometimes a bubble of gas develops in the synovial fluid, and when the joint is manipulated in certain ways , the bubble can burst, making an audible popping or cracking sound.
Arthritis is an extremely common problem for older adults, with the majority of people over age 65 having signs of the condition. There are two major forms of arthritis.Rheumatoid arthritis results from inflammation of the joints, and can cause pain, redness, swelling, and eventually deformity and loss of function.Osteoarthritis, the most common form, results from wear and tear on the joints over time, which is why it tends to affect older adults.
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Why Can You Crack Your Knuckles
First things first: Not everyone can crack their knuckles, Husni says. But if you can, what youre referring to is some of the sounds that are made when joints are moving, she explains. It might sound like a pop or a crackand everyones anatomy is a little bit different, she adds. So what causes those sounds may differ from person to person.
Sometimes its the tendons that are around the joints that actually snap back onto the bone, Husni says. Sometimes when people move their joints, they can have air that escapes the joints that makes the pop sound. She also notes that people with more laxity in their tendons may hear more of a slapping sound, while others with more laxity in their joints might hear something more like popping.
And as for that need to crack your knuckles? Hate to break it to you, but theres no physiologic reason to keep doing it, Husni says. Cracking your knuckles, she explains, is just like any other continuous habitkind of like twirling your hair.
How Does Arthritis Affect Your Knuckles
If you develop osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, youre likely to experience symptoms in your hands. These symptoms are sometimes localized to your knuckles, which contain significant amounts of cartilage.
If arthritis is affecting your hands, here are some of the primary symptoms you might encounter.
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Conflicting Research On Knuckle Cracking And Arthritis
Research studies comparing knuckle crackers’ to non-crackers have had mixed results.1 A couple of studies have reported an association between knuckle cracking and hand arthritis.4,5 Others found no significant connection.6,7
So, is it okay to continue your knuckle cracking? Well, I wouldnt recommend it. Even studies that found no connection between knuckle cracking and arthritis reported other signs of joint changes.1,7,8
What About When You Crack Other Joints
Theres something so satisfying about a good back crack. But does that have the potential to produce negative side effects, too?
Cracking your back every now and then probably wont lead to much joint laxity, according to Husni. And that holds true for other things you might crack.
Still, I really think that everyone has a different threshold for joint laxity, Husni says. Some people, she explains, are born with more hypermobility than others. Because they have that existing looseness, they need to be a bit more careful. Joint crackingan extra push outside the joints normal range of motionmight cause pain sooner for those individuals.
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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 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.
Is Knuckle Cracking Really Harmful
Over the years, scientists have conducted many research studies which disprove the idea that knuckle cracking is harmful. In a study carried out to determine the relationship between knuckle cracking and arthritis, 300 individuals were evaluated for the presence of habitual knuckle cracking and hand arthritis/dysfunction. The study did not reveal any relationship between knuckle cracking and hand dysfunction.
A dedicated researcher named Dr. Donald Unger cracked the knuckles of one hand twice a day for 50 years and didnt crack the other. After 50 years of research, he concluded no difference between the fingers of either hand. He published his findings indicating that knuckle cracking has no relation with arthritis and hand dysfunctions.
One study revealed that constant knuckle cracking caused the weakening of the grip. However, a more extensive study conducted in 2017 disproved it. It showed that knuckle cracking does not cause arthritis, joint swelling, joint laxity, or any joint deformity.
Knuckle cracking does not cause any harm to the body. So the question is, should you do it? Probably not! If you crack your knuckles during a job interview, for example, it may be interpreted as a sign of stress, and anxiety, and lack of confidence. Theres no scientific proof that knuckle cracking is harmful, but social norms still recommend against it.
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Tendons Snapping Over Joints
Tendons keep muscles attached to bones, while ligaments connect bones to other bones. Ligaments can make popping noises when they tighten while the joint is moving. Tendons can make a popping noise when they move out of place and snap back into position as the joint moves.
People often hear these noises in their knee and ankle joints when they stand up from sitting or while walking up or down the stairs.
Can I Continue Cracking My Knuckles
While research indicates that there is no increased preponderance of arthritis when cracking knuckles, scientists found that habitual knuckle crackers are more likely to have hand swelling and lower grip strength. Even though knuckle cracking doesnt cause arthritis, you should still consider letting go of the habit as there are some latent dangers such as possible:
- Pain in the joints
- Dislocated fingers or overstretched ligaments
- Damage to the soft tissue of the joint
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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.
Why Do My Knuckles Hurt If I Do Not Crack Them
The knuckles can experience stress throughout the day as we use our hands. This can lead to fatigue or tension in the knuckles and the feeling that they need relief.
Cracking your knuckles may create the feeling of relieving tension in the joints. As cracking your knuckles causes the joint to separate for a brief moment, it may feel as though the joint is looser or more mobile.
Joint pain is common and can have many causes. These causes can include more serious underlying conditions, such as arthritis or an injury.
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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 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 , a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
Does Knuckle Cracking Cause Arthritis
Conventional wisdom says cracking knuckles does cause problems, but a researcher who studied the question says no.
In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask experts to answer readers’ questions about a wide range of topics, including some of the oldest — and most cherished — medical myths out there. For our October 2011 issue, we asked Dimitrios Pappas, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, about the long-term effects of one popular childhood activity: knuckle cracking.
Q: My 10-year-old son cracks his knuckles. Is it true that it causes arthritis?
Ten-year-old boys love to make noises with their body, so it’s not surprising your son is intrigued with the sound of a good knuckle pop. But you can put your fears aside — the idea that knuckle cracking leads to arthritis is FALSE.
“There have been a few studies on this,â Pappas says. “None of them shows any change in the occurrence of arthritis between people who habitually crack their knuckles and those who do not.â
But here’s something cool you can tell your son: The “popâ that comes when you compress your knuckles isn’t from bone snapping on bone. It happens because, as the bones are stretched apart, a gas bubble forms and then pops.
Dimitrios Pappas, MD, assistant professor of medicine , Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, N.Y.
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Does Cracking Knuckles Cause Arthritis
Several studies have been done to determine ifknuckle cracking can lead to arthritis, but no link has been found. Painlesscracking of your knuckles does not cause arthritis. Researchers from theUniformed Services University of the Health Sciences examined a group of 215people, 20% of whom said that they regularly cracked their knuckles. Resultsshowed that 18.1% of the people who cracked their knuckles and 21.5% who didnthad arthritis in their hands. Put simply, the chances of getting arthritis wereabout equal in both groups.
Q: Does Cracking Your Knuckles Lead To Arthritis
A: Maybe you do it out of habit, or as a way to release tension. But if youre a regular at cracking your knuckles, youve probably heard that cracking your knuckles will enlarge them or cause arthritis in your joints. Is there any truth to this?
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Turns out, this is an old wives tale. Habitual knuckle-cracking wont cause osteoarthritis or joint enlargement.
Cracking your knuckles releases gas, in the form of nitrogen bubbles from the space around your joints. The sound is triggered as the bubbles are compressed. Researchers arent sure if the sound emitted from cracking your knuckles is that of gas bubbles being formed or released. But its just gas, nonetheless.
That said, the sound can make some people cringe. And a 1999 study found weaker hand grips and more hand swelling among knuckle-crackers.
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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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Are There Any Negative Side Effects
People crack their knuckles because it tends to make the joints feel looser for a little while. As of now, there is no solid evidence that cracking your knuckles will lead to arthritis later on in life. However, it may not be totally harmless either. There are some that think habitually cracking your knuckles can lead to swollen joints and a loss of grip strength. Additionally, if cracking is accompanied by any pain, there may be an underlying issue that should be checked out.
Cracking your knuckles does not cause arthritis. However, if you are experiencing pain associated with the joints in your hands, it may be a good idea to meet with our hand specialist, to ensure there isnt a core issue.
To visit our Hand & Wrist Center at the Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine, please request an appointment online or call at 904-825-0540.
A member of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Dr. Lampley specializes in minimally invasive procedures including endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery and arthroscopy of the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder.
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