Does Cracking Knuckles Cause Arthritis?

Are you one of those people who can’t fight the urge to crack their fingers at every opportunity? It is a habit that can be very hard to break, but don’t worry… you’re not alone. There are millions of people out there who invariably pop their joints frequently, sometimes without even realizing it!

A Recent Revelation in Knuckle Cracking

A paper was published in 1947 claiming that cracking of the knuckles would lead to the formation of a bubble in the fluid that is present between the joints. However, in 1971, a pair of scientists challenged this theory and proposed that it was not the creation, but rather the bursting of the bubble formed in the fluid, that led to the cracking sound. This is the theory that has been believed until quite recently, when a new experiment was conducted and the results told a very different story.

What Happens When You Crack Your Knuckles?

When you crack your knuckles by stretching them out, a small gas cavity/vacuum of nitrogen gas is created between the joints. Until now, it is believed that the bursting of this cavity produces the popping sound, but recently, an experiment was carried out that clearly showed that (see the image below) that the cavity was created after the sound was produced – not before it. If you want to go through this fascinating experiment in detail, you can find the full details here.

Images of hand knuckles

Images of the hand before cracking knuckles (left) and after cracking (right)

Image Source

Is Cracking Knuckles Bad for Your Fingers and Bones?

If you went to an Orthopaedic surgeon, there is a good chance that he might tell you that cracking joints is not good in the long run. Some would even say that it will inevitably lead to arthritis, but how true is this?

As far as the connection between cracking of joints and arthritis is concerned, there really isn’t any. Or at least, there is no proof of any direct relationship between arthritis and cracking knuckles. In fact, back in 2011, a study was conducted in which people in the age group of 50-89 participated, and the results of hand radiographs of people who regularly cracked their knuckles were compared to those people who did not (Source).

Still, it’s not a very good habit to have. Just think of your poor finger joints being frequently bent to unnatural angles without any good reason. Basically, it’s a good idea to just let them be. Also, if you are bent on doing something with your fingers to keep them occupied, try spinning a coin or a pencil in your fingers.

That way, you can keep your fingers occupied and look cool at the same time!

References:

  1. Does Knuckle Cracking Cause Arthritis? – Health Information and Medical Information – Harvard Health
  2. Does Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis? – British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
  3. Does Joint Cracking (Popping) Cause Arthritis? – WebMd
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About the Author:

Ashish is a Science graduate (Bachelor of Science) from Punjabi University (India). He spends a lot of time watching movies, and an awful lot more time discussing them. He likes Harry Potter and the Avengers, and obsesses over how thoroughly Science dictates every aspect of life… in this universe, at least.

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