Truth or Myth | Does Cracking Knuckles Cause Arthritis

Truth or Myth | Does Cracking Knuckles Cause Arthritis

Posted on 07/25/2019

Knuckle-cracking is a fairly common habit with between 25 and 54% of people making it a daily occurrence. It may aggravate the people around you, but for the person doing it, it can create a sense of relief. There are many different reasons why people crack their knuckles, ranging from a nervous habit of helping them to relieve tension in their hands. It is also a habit that is much more common amongst men than women.

Knuckle cracking tends to occur in one of several ways. People tend to either:

-         Bend their knuckles backward to forwards

-         Turn them sideways

-         Pull-on the bones around the joint to relieve tension within it

In most instances, patients do this until they hear an audible crack or feel a ‘pop’ within each knuckle. In doing so, the space between the joints increases, causing the gases dissolved in the synovial fluid bathing the joint to form microscopic bubbles. These merge into larger bubbles which then get popped by additional fluid which rushes in to fill the enlarged space.

Many people aren’t aware that once the joint has been cracked, the process can’t actually be repeated for at least 15/20 minutes. This is because space needs to return to its original size and the bubbles need to re-form in order for it to be possible.

Can cracking knuckles cause damage to your fingers and hands?


Some of the habits that we develop over time aren’t always good for our health and wellbeing. Cracking our knuckles is no exception. Studies have found that regular knuckle-cracking can lead to the development of a number of different problems with the hands. These include the following:

Inflammation of the joints


Most people know that inflammation nearly always results in pain. Patients who crack their knuckles may initially do so to relieve tension, but in most instances, they will end up suffering from swollen, sore knuckles that are painful to move.

Loss of mobility


Inflammation can also stiffen up the affected joints and this can make them harder to move. Regularly cracking your knuckles could result in mobility problems that affect your day to day life, particularly if you rely on your hands for your job or hobby as many people, including office workers, medical professionals, manual workers, people who play sport, musical instruments or enjoy activities such as crochet, woodworking or knitting.

Weak grip


Cracking knuckles has also been shown to have a detrimental impact on the overall health and strength of hands, including a patient’s grip. This can make it harder to hold objects – something else which can have a significant impact on your ability to function day-to-day.

What about arthritis? Can it be caused by knuckle cracking?


Currently, there is no specific evidence that suggests that cracking knuckles is more likely to result in the development of either type of arthritis. However, if you already have weakened joints due to having diagnosed or undiagnosed arthritis, you are more likely to go on to develop other issues that could be caused by your habit. This includes soft-tissue damage, dislocation of the joint and more.



Want more information on knuckle-cracking or have further questions about the effect it can have on your hands? Get in touch with our experienced hand specialists today to schedule an appointment.



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