What Knuckle Cracking Really Does to Your Joints

Does Knuckle Cracking Cause Arthritis?
Does Knuckle Cracking Cause Arthritis?

Your parents might tell you knuckle cracking is bad for you, but is it really? Sure, that popping sound puts some people on edge, but does it do harm to your joints? In particular, some people have the idea that it could lead to arthritis in your hands. Let’s explore whether this simple action causes arthritis or other joint problems.

Knuckle Cracking and Arthritis
The idea that knuckle cracking causes arthritis is one myth you don’t need to listen to. It makes sense for people to think that the one could lead to the other since they both take place in the joints, but it’s not a causal relationship. Harvard Health Publications notes that numerous studies have confirmed that knuckle cracking doesn’t seem to increase arthritis risk in the hands. One such study in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine did a case-control study of hand radiographs. It concluded that there was no basis to chronic knuckle cracking as an osteoarthritis risk factor.

Are There Other Risks From Cracking Knuckles?
While the pop of a knuckle might sound pretty dangerous, it’s really just a sound popping bubbles make in the lubricating fluid of the joint. However, this doesn’t mean knuckle cracking is completely harmless. On the contrary, one study of this action in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases did find certain consequences. While this study also found no link between knuckle cracking and arthritis, it discovered that the people who consistently cracked their knuckles showed higher levels of swelling in their hands and less strength in their grip than people without the inclination to crack. Plus, injuries have resulted from knuckle cracking, says Harvard Health Publications.

What Does Cause Arthritis?
If knuckle cracking isn’t the catalyst behind your arthritis, what is? Osteoarthritis, which is most prevalent, starts because of wear and tear on the cartilage. This can happen quickly because of an infection or injury in the joint or degenerate over time. With rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory type of the condition, your immune system works against the synovial membrane lining the joint capsule. Because of this, the lining swells. The problem can also extend to create damage in the cartilage and bone. Arthritis causes are not completely understood, but some factors seem to increase the risk. These include aging, obesity, family history, gender and injury to a joint.

So, is popping your joints harmful?

While knuckle cracking doesn’t seem to cause arthritis, you might wonder whether the action could worsen this condition. Johns Hopkins Medicine says cracking won’t worsen it, although it’s possible that people could have an increased risk of joint injury from cracking if the joints are damaged or weakened from the arthritis.

Overall, research hasn’t confirmed a link between knuckle cracking and arthritis. Nonetheless, it could be a smart idea to stop this habit since it might cause some joint problems, including if you already have arthritis.

Sources:
http://www.jabfm.org/content/24/2/169.full, http://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/does-knuckle-cracking-cause-arthritis,
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1004074/,
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/symptoms-causes/dxc-20168905,
http://www.hopkinsarthritis.org/arthritis-news/knuckle-cracking-q-a-from/

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