Your grandmother probably stopped you from cracking your knuckles because she believed it caused arthritis. So does it? Well, the simple answer is no, cracking your knuckles is not causing harm for most people. It may aggravate the people around you but it probably will not raise your risk for arthritis.
This misinformation has been handed down from generation to generation. However, we have since learned that cracking knuckles has not been shown to be harmful, specifically in relation to arthritis.
What Happens To Your Body When Cracking Knuckles?
Cracking knuckles can be done in three ways: Pulling on the bones around the joint, bending them backward or forward and turning them sideways. All of these methods cause the same reaction in the joint.
The “pop” you hear when you crack a knuckle is caused by bubbles bursting in the synovial fluid — the fluid that helps lubricate joints. The sound can also come from tendons snapping over tissues because of minor adjustments in their gliding paths. If you already have arthritis, tendonitis or bursitis, the cracking sound is most likely due to snapping of irregular or swollen tissues.
It is important to note that while knuckle cracking does not cause arthritis, there is still good reason to let go of the habit. Chronic knuckle cracking may lead to reduced grip strength and you can actually injure yourself while trying to crack your knuckles.
Five Fun Facts About Knuckle Cracking
- Between 25-54 percent of people crack their knuckles
- Men are more likely to crack their knuckles than women
- Joint cracking creates relief for some people; for others it is merely a habit
- After cracking the knuckle, it usually takes 15-30 minutes to be able to crack it again
- A grinding sound, call crepitus, will be made from movement in a joint with worn cartilage
At Ventura Orthopedics, we recommend that if you feel pain or have swollen tissue in the hand, then do not crack your knuckles. If cracking knuckles is accompanied by pain, there could be an irregularity to the structure of the hand. On the plus side, right after popping a joint there is often evidence of increased mobility.
If you are experiencing hand pain and want to learn more about the best options for you or to schedule an appointment with one of our hand specialists, call us at 800.698.1280.