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.
Neck Or Back Cracking: Leave It To The Pros
What about neck and back cracking? Thanks to our sedentary lifestyles of sitting at our desks all day and our penchant for staring down at our phones, which leads to text neck, we may find ourselves having neck or back pain. Somehow, the feeling of release you get after a good crack seems to make it better .
While its probably okay to occasionally self-crack your neck or back, dont have a friend do it for you, because they could apply too much pressure and cause injury. When youre talking about your spine, you want to be careful so only get your back or neck adjusted from a licensed chiropractor or physical therapist.
Even then, there has been research indicating neck manipulations could in rare cases lead to stroke, so make sure you tell your practitioner, if you are at an increased risk of stroke. And be sure to talk to your health care provider, if you have any concerns about the risks of such procedures.
The evidence of whether or not cracking your neck can cause damage is fairly inconclusive, says Raymond J. Hah, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at the USC Spine Center of Keck Medicine and assistant professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School. There is no evidence that cracking your neck or back is a risk factor for disc degeneration.
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The Bottom Line: Does Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis
Multiple studies have indicated that there is noevidence to suggest cracking knuckles causes or worsens arthritis.2,3 However, chronic knuckle cracking maylead to reduced grip strength, and there have been occasional reports of tendoninjuries and dislocations.4
Although patients who crack their knuckles are not at greater risk for osteoarthritis, its important that they pay attention to pain in their joints. If knuckle cracking proves painful, there could be an abnormality in the structure of the joint.
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The Research: Is Cracking Your Back Bad For You
As we mentioned above, studies have shown that cracking your joints really doesnt have any adverse or beneficial effects on your bones or joints unless its causing pain.
For years, the idea has been circulated that if you pop your joints frequently, youll end up with arthritis. Its unclear when, how or why this myth started circulating, all we know is that, despite growing amounts of research to the contrary, people still believe the old wives tale.
Still not convinced?
Well, to prove it, were going to dive into some of the research that has been compiled on this topic over the years, starting with a brave man named Dr. Donald Unger.
Dr. Unger took science into his own hand after he grew tired of the renowned authorities in his life, him that cracking his knuckles would lead to arthritis of the fingers. He popped the knuckles in his left hand at least twice for 50 years, comparing the difference between the knuckles he cracked and those he hadnt.
At the end of his five-decade-long experiment, Dr. Unger found that there was no apparent differenceâ in the knuckles of his hands and that there is no apparent relationship between knuckle cracking and the subsequent development of arthritis of the fingers.
In another study by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, researchers looked at 250 people ages 50-89, 20% of whom popped their knuckles on a regular basis.
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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
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Why Have Our Joints Evolved To Crack
Perhaps the most interesting question is why our joints developed in such a way that theyre able to crack.
I had a conversation recently with Jerome Fryer, a Canadian researcher who was involved in the above study with the simulated joint. He raised an interesting idea which hasnt been published. Could the ability of our joints to crack actually serve a useful purpose?
When the simulated joints in his study were filled with normal water, the joint surfaces separated easily, which formed bubbles but didnt produce the cracking sound.
But when the water was treated to remove all of the dissolved gasses and microscopic bubbles, the simulated joint performed more like a real joint. That is, much more force was needed to separate the surfaces, and only then did it produce a cracking sound.
Perhaps the fact it requires a large force to separate our joints, which happens to also produce a cracking sound, may be very useful by assisting in joint stability and thereby providing protection from our joints being damaged.
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.
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Why Do People Think That It Causes Arthritis
Certain types of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis can result from joint health issues. These issues can include inflammation and gradual wear of the joints.
It is true that habitual trauma may eventually cause damage to the tissues and lead to osteoarthritis.
However, there is no significant causal evidence between the two, meaning that researchers have not specifically observed that knuckle cracking directly causes osteoarthritis.
- cartilage changes that lead to possible scarring
- hypermobility, a large range of motion that can increase the risk of injury
If you do develop any pain or swelling after cracking your knuckles, stop the cracking and contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Nhs On Common Signs And Symptoms
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You may have been urged not to crack your joints, such as fingers or toes, because of the risk it may pose towards developing arthritis. However, how much of this is true and how much is simply an old wives tale?
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Does Cracking Other Body Parts Cause Arthritis
Aside from the finger joints, many people may crack or pop other joints of their body as a habit.
While it may not give you arthritis, cracking your joints is not always advisable, especially when concerning your neck or back.
There is no conclusive evidence of the precise damage cracking your neck can cause, but due to the risks of injury, you should only get your back or neck adjusted by a licensed chiropractor or physiotherapist.
Additionally, if you are cracking other joints for relief or to deal with pain, contact your doctor to investigate any underlying problem.
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.
- Independently and Privately Owned |
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What Happens When You Crack Your Knuckles
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.
Will Arthritis Go Away
Although theres no cure for arthritis, treatments have improved greatly in recent years and, for many types of arthritis, particularly inflammatory arthritis, theres a clear benefit in starting treatment at an early stage. It may be difficult to say what has caused your arthritis.
What type of arthritis is caused by broken bones?
Osteoarthritis causes cartilage the hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint to break down. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, beginning with the lining of joints.
What is the difference between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis?
The most obvious difference between osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis is that osteoporosis affects the bones, whereas rheumatoid arthritis affects the joints. Bones are made up of a combination of collagen fibers and minerals such as calcium.
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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.
What Causes Neck Cracking And Popping
The snapping or grinding of your neck may be caused by:
Synovial fluid changes. The synovial fluid between your joints lubricates movement, and when the pressure changes in this fluid, it creates gaseous bubbles. According to a 2015 study, the creation of these bubbles makes a cracking or popping sound.
Ligament or tendon movement. When tendons and ligaments move over bone, they can make a snapping sound that is heard when you move your joints.
Bone grinding. If the cartilage in the joints has worn down enough, the grinding or cracking sound you hear may be due to the bones grinding against each other.
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So Does Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis
The short answer? Probably not, according to Husni. A study published in 2011 in The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that habitual knuckle cracking did not seem to be a risk factor for hand osteoarthritis. But Husni says cracking your knuckles can lead to other joint issues.
The term arthritis refers to loss of cartilage where your joint space gets more narrow over time, she explains. Eventually, bone meets bone in that joint, and thats really uncomfortable.
As opposed to actual arthritis, Husni says cracking your knuckles can lead to joint laxity, which can cause painand you might mistake that sensation for arthritis. In other words, thats where this myth comes from.
Now, lets break down what it means to develop joint laxity. Any time you do things to your joints that are outside their normal range of motion , that can cause the joints to loosen, according to Husni. And the more you do it, the looser your joints are likely to become, and the more permanently your joints stay in a relaxed state.
But a word of caution: As you get older, there’s a higher chance of arthritis in general, Husni says. So while cracking your knuckles probably doesnt cause arthritis, you could certainly still wind up with it.
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease, which means that your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake, causing inflammation in the affected parts of the body.
RA mainly attacks the joints, usually many joints at once. RA commonly affects joints in the hands, wrists, and knees. In a joint with RA, the lining of the joint becomes inflamed, causing damage to joint tissue. This tissue damage can cause long-lasting or chronic pain, unsteadiness , and deformity .
RA can also affect other tissues throughout the body and cause problems in organs such as the lungs, heart, and eyes.
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Does Cracking Bones Cause Arthritis
Whats creating that cracking or popping noise isnt fully known.
A traditional explanation is that pressure on a joint creates tiny bubbles in the synovial fluid, which pop when they form quickly. Your synovial fluid contains oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide and cushions your bones from rubbing against each other.
A 2015 study used real-time magnetic resonance imaging of joint cracking that showed the noise was related to cavity formation in the joint fluid, not collapse of a preexisting bubble. The technical term for this is tribonucleation, where two surfaces separate rapidly, leaving a gas cavity.
Who Is At Risk For Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriasis affects 2-3 percent of the population or approximately 7 million people in the U.S. and up to 30% of these people can develop psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis occurs most commonly in adults between the ages of 35 and 55 however, it can develop at any age. Psoriatic arthritis affects men and women equally.
It is possible to develop psoriatic arthritis with only a family history of psoriasis and while less common, psoriatic arthritis can occur before psoriasis appears. Children of parents with psoriasis are three times more likely to have psoriasis and are at greater risk for developing psoriatic arthritis. The most typical age of juvenile onset is 9-11 years of age.
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What Bones And Joints Are Affected By Arthritis
The most commonly affected joints are those in the:
Does arthritis weaken joints?
As the disease progresses, cartilage and bone are damaged and destroyed. Eventually, supporting tendons, ligaments, and muscles weaken. This can lead to a limited range of motion or difficulty moving the joints properly. In the long term, joints can become deformed.
Does rheumatoid arthritis make your bones hurt?
Pain in the joints For example, youll feel pain in both left and right wrists, hands, and knees. If you have RA, joint pain can range from mild to moderate or severe. Sometimes it can feel like a sprain or broken bone. Some areas of your body may even be painful to the touch.