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Popping or Cracking Your Knuckles and Arthritis

By Rusty Ford

No one really knows why knuckles or other joints make that popping or cracking noise. There are many theories about this but none have been proven. Most everyone who Popped or cracked their knuckles when young heard their moms say that this would give them arthritis when they got older. It may seem to make sense but the small amount of research done on the subject does not back it up.

After a thorough look at the research here is what I found.

  • All of the studies performed on the subject of popping or cracking your knuckles and arthritis have lead to the same conclusion. They could find no link between the two.

  • There are a couple of studies that show that life time knuckle popping or cracking lead to some level of tendon damage around the joints.

  • There is a study done that showed that this group had more had swelling than those who did not. It also found that those 85 percent of those in the study who cracked or popped their knuckles worked their lives in manual labor while the other 15 percent did not. This would easily account for the difference.

  • One study found that after many years of cracking habitual knuckle crackers may have reduced grip strength compared with people not cracking their knuckles.

My conclusions about popping or cracking your knuckles and arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is caused by long term wear and tear on a joint or trauma to a joint. If you have a joint injury to a knuckle it would be advisable to not try and pop the knuckle while injured. Putting stress on any injury is not a wise thing to do. You would not want to do this with a bone fracture. As a knuckle popper myself I understand that popping your knuckles at times can make them feel better. When you have a knuckle injury popping or cracking the injured knuckle will in no way help with its healing.

Since there are a couple of studies that show that there is an increase in tendon damage around knuckles with those who pop or crack them, I would suggest that you not get to aggressive with the process. Bending a joint too far out of place trying to get it to pop has the potential of damaging tissue around it.

And last, for Pete's sake do not do it just to aggravate your mother. Poor old she has enough stress in her life.

References

Castellanos J, Axelrod D. Effect of habitual knuckle cracking on hand function. Ann Rheum Dis . 1990;49:308-309.

Swezey RL, Swezey SE. The consequences of habitual knuckle cracking. West J Med . 1975;122:377-379. Available at: http://www.pubmedcentral.gov/ . Accessed July 11, 2006
 
Watson P, Hamilton A, Mollan R. Habitual joint cracking and radiological damage. Br Med J . 1989;299:1566.
 
Watson P Kernohan WG, Mollan RA. A study of the cracking sounds from the metacarpophalangeal joint. Proc Inst Mech Eng . 1989;203:109-118. 3/17/2011

DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/: Deweber K, Olszewski M, Ortolano R. Knuckle cracking and hand osteoarthritis. J Am Board Fam Med. 2011;24(2):169-174.

 

 

 

 

 

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Arthritis can develop as a result of an infection. For example, bacteria that cause gonorrhea or Lyme disease can cause arthritis. Infectious arthritis can cause serious damage, but usually clears up completely with antibiotics. Scleroderma is a systemic disease that involves the skin, but may include problems with blood vessels, joints, and internal organs. Fibromyalgia syndrome is soft-tissue rheumatism that doesn't lead to joint deformity, but affects an estimated 5 million Americans, mostly women. The approximate number of cases in the United States of some common forms of arthritis.

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