Does Knuckle Cracking Cause Arthritis?

Posted by GO Medical on

The next few blog topics with be on health myths - Fact or Fiction?

Knuckle cracking causing arthritis is the first topic. Most of us remember being told by someone not to excessively crack our knuckles as it will cause arthritis. But is that really true?

Harvard Medical School describes knuckle cracking this way. "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." 

So does all that knuckle bursting, pulling and stretching cause arthritis?

In 1990, hand function was researched in 200 adults, age 45 and above. In the 74 habitual knuckle crackers none had a greater tendency toward arthritis. However, the knuckle crackers were more likely to have swollen hands and reduced hand strength. An editorial suggested perhaps a person must have looser-than-average ligaments in order to crack knuckles in the first place. And those loose ligaments and joints may set the person up for other sorts of joint damage.

In a 1975 study, research was conducted at a senior home. The knuckle crackers and non knuckle crackers hands were X-rayed and compared. No difference in arthritis rates were found.

There's just no scientific evidence to tie knuckle cracking to arthritis.

So what does cause arthritis? There are many kinds of arthritis, but the most common, osteoarthritis, is a function of age and genetic predisposition. If you X-ray hands of people age 65, 70 percent will have arthritis. Osteoarthritis tends to be a bit worse in the dominant hand.

FUN FACT - Once you crack your knuckles, it takes about 25 to 30 minutes for the gases to re-dissolve into the joint fluid. During this time, your knuckles will not crack.

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