Does Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis?

By:    Published: July 28, 2011

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Anyone who hates the sound of cracked knuckles will do anything to have it stop. The first thing that someone usually tells the other who is cracking his knuckles is that it will cause arthritis later in life. This is a common myth, yet a certain percentage of people actually stop cracking their knuckles because of it. This habit can be frowned upon and portrayed in a negative light, but it does make sense that cracking your knuckles would have an effect on the strength of your joints later in life. The question that should be asked is: Will cracking you knuckles really cause arthritis? Before that question is answered, there is some knowledge that needs to be shared about arthritis and cracking knuckles.

Cracking Your Knuckles

Cracking your knuckles is the simple process of taking a joint and purposely snapping it until it cracks; there are many different joints that can crack throughout the body. The most common thing to crack on the body are the knuckles, but the neck, back, shoulders, elbows, wrist, knees, and toes can also be cracked. The most common way to crack your knuckles is by applying pressure to the top half of your fingers until you here a pop. The initial reason why most people crack their fingers is to relieve tired hands, but over time it becomes a habit and is more about relieving stress.

What Causes that Popping Sound?

Joints are where two bones meet each other and their purpose is to provide movement and flexibility. When there is movement, like the cracking of knuckles, the bones are moving to a spot where they do not belong. The bone then wants to return back into the joint. The re-entering of the bone into the joint makes a popping sound. There are other items that make noise as well. In between the cartilage at the end of each bone, there is synovial fluid that acts as a lubricant. This fluid contains carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and oxygen. When movement of the bones take place in the joints, the gases in the synovial fluids release, causing bubbles to pop, which adds to the popping noise that you hear. It's not until these bubbles form again when you can crack your knuckles and receive that same popping sound. Just try popping the same knuckle multiple times within a short time frame - they don't always pop.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a joint disease that is typically developed during the later years of a person's life. It's often difficult to know exactly what the cause of arthritis is, and that's why people may jump to broad statements about how someone would acquire it. There are many different types of this disease, but the most common is osteoarthritis. This usually affects the smaller joints of the body including the knuckles. The result of this type of arthritis can be injury or natural wear and tear. This happens when the cartilage protecting the bones from one another decays. This loss of cartilage results in bones rubbing up against one another, which causes extreme pain. Now, since there is no direct cause for arthritis, it would be easy for one to point the finger at cracking knuckles as the culprit.

Does Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis?

When you crack your knuckles, there are no signs that it causes arthritis. There have actually been several studies that have looked at whether this habit can increase the chance of arthritis. They found that there were no ties to cracking your knuckles and arthritis. The reason for this is that the synovial fluid is used as a buffer between the bones. The cracking sound may be confused with bones touching one another, but as it was explained earlier, it has nothing to do with that. There are some effects to cracking your knuckles, but they are minor. Cracking knuckles can weaken the strength of the joints, and if this is the case, you should stop cracking them. This loss in strength will soon go away after you have stopped putting pressure on the joints. Also, there may be some minor damage to soft tissue if you continue to crack your knuckles, but this causes no serious health effects. So, the next time someone complains about your cracking knuckles and warns of the dangers of arthritis, crack another knuckle and say, "that's only a myth."

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