Arthritis: Does Knuckle Cracking Cause Arthritis?
When I first heard someone exclaim, “Don’t crack your knuckles! “, I don’t know how old I was. It will cause arthritis in you. But I am aware that even then, each time I do it, I have a strange sensation of guilt.
There’s something incredibly gratifying about that recognizable cracking sound and the release it gives your fingers, even though not everyone likes hearing it. It doesn’t seem impossible that this practice isn’t very healthy for your health, just as eating a lot of candy and other enjoyable things in life.
Is the notion that “cracking your knuckles promotes arthritis” ever supported by science? We sought medical opinion.
What happens when your knuckles crack?
According to Dr. Jason Liebowitz, a rheumatologist in Rockaway, New Jersey, “the sound created by cracking knuckles [comes from] nitrogen bubbles in the synovial fluid that is located within the joints in the body. A natural material that aids in lubricating the joints is synovial fluid.
In essence, synovial fluid promotes normal movement and aids in preventing cartilage deterioration. Negative pressure, which is produced when you crack your knuckles, causes bubbles to form in the fluid.
Recent research reveals the sound may really originate from the development of the bubbles, contrary to what scientists previously believed.
According to Dr. Robert G. Hylland, an assistant clinical professor at the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, “This phenomenon happens predominantly in tiny joints of the hands and facet joints in the spine responsible in part for “cracking your back.” The reason why some people can’t crack their joints is that those with looser joints are unable to produce enough negative pressure to produce bubbles.
You may have observed that you are unable to repeatedly crack your knuckles once you have done so. There is also a biological explanation behind that.
The time it takes for these cavities, or bubbles of vapor, to refill is around 20 minutes, according to rheumatologist Dr. Iziegbe Ehiorobo of the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Therefore, before a knuckle may be broken again, it might take that long.
Can it lead to arthritis?
According to Liebowitz, “cracking one’s knuckles” is not clearly harmful to one’s health because there is no proof that it is related to the onset of arthritis.
Knuckle-cracking and arthritis, a general term for a multitude of illnesses involving joint inflammation or injury, have not been linked in any studies over the years. Ehiorobo cited a well-known, decades-long study by Dr. Donald Unger as more evidence that there is no connection between knuckle cracking and arthritis.
In order to test the idea that knuckle cracking raises the risk of arthritis, Donald Unger conducted an experiment on himself, he said. For more than 50 years, he used his right hand for control while cracking his left hand’s knuckles at least twice every day.
At the conclusion of the experiment, he compared both hands and discovered that neither hand had arthritis. Additionally, the hands did not differ from one another. The cause of this popular fallacy is less clear, despite the medical community’s confidence that the habit doesn’t enhance your risk for arthritis.
It’s unclear how this widespread misunderstanding came to be, but Hylland speculated that variables such as the prevalence of knuckle-cracking and osteoarthritis in the hands with aging, as well as the audible cracking sound, may have contributed. Given the obnoxiousness of the sound, I believe parents used these observations to stop the practice right away. However, repetition over time reinforced the conduct’s explanation.
What about other medical conditions?
Okay, so knuckle cracking doesn’t lead to arthritis. Is it harmful to you in other ways, though?
According to Dr. Scott Zashin, an internist and rheumatologist in Dallas, “there is no evidence that the act of cracking knuckles can cause arthritis, although it can rarely harm the tendons that connect muscle to bones.”
In fact, Harvard Health Publishing acknowledges that “occasional reports” of injuries caused by “overly forceful knuckle-cracking” have been made, but they stress that these are the outliers. Knuckle cracking may be related to swelling hands and decreased grip strength, according to a 1990 study.
However, these possible side effects seem to be incredibly uncommon. The actual cause for concern can be the habit’s psychological components.
The only evident harm from this behavior, according to Hylland, is the aggravation it often causes in the neighborhood. The fact that many people experience a fleeting sense of relief after cracking their joints suggests that joint stiffness may cause some discomfort for them. This repetitive cycle of tightening, cracking, and tightening could encourage a habit that some people find challenging to overcome.
Furthermore, no medical professionals are claiming that constant knuckle-cracking is healthy.
There is no evidence to support that it is helpful for the joints, despite the fact that it may provide comfort for certain people and help others cope with stressful situations, according to Ehiorobo.
What then triggers arthritis?
Returning to the misconception that knuckle-cracking causes arthritis, the question of what actually causes it still stands.
Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent kind of arthritis, according to Liebowitz. Osteoarthritis is more complicated than a simple one-liner, but in general, it is characterized by the narrowing of the joint space brought on by the degeneration of cartilage (such as the articular cartilage lining the joint) and manifested as aches and pains, which are exacerbated by activity or seasonal changes.
There are numerous types of arthritis, he continued, and they can be brought on by autoimmune diseases (like rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis), the buildup of crystals in the joints (like uric acid crystals from gout), infections (like staphylococcal or Lyme disease), medications, and other problems.
Some cases of arthritis are inherited and linked to changes in the collagen gene. However, the cause is not just due to genes. Numerous things are unknown.
Dr. Nilanjana Bose, a rheumatologist at Lonestar Rheumatology in Houston, noted that a variety of factors, including genetics, the environment in which you live, your lifestyle, and the activities you engage in, can affect how well your joints function. Who gets symptomatic arthritis and who doesn’t depends on a number of factors.
Consult a doctor if you feel unusual joint pain, stiffness, or swelling to discover if arthritis may be to blame.
Anyone experiencing arthritic pain merits assessment, according to Bose. Rheumatologists are now accessible. That greatly increases access to care. Tools are available to assist.