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Knuckle Cracking and Arthritis

March 25, 2012

We get asked all the time if cracking knuckles leads to finger arthritis.  The simple answer is “no” because there isn’t much research on the subject.  But just because science hasn’t found a direct link between knuckle cracking and arthritis doesn’t mean cracking knuckles is healthy for your fingers.  The habit can lead to other hand-related problems and there is no benefit.

The habit usually stems from the sound.  Some people find a sense of satisfaction in hearing their knuckles pop.  The “pop” comes when the fingers are stretched apart.  What happens is that the space within the finger joint widens as the fingers are stretched.  Gas bubbles can be introduced within the synovial fluid (the lubricant that protects your finger joints) as a result of this stretching.  Those bubbles popping are the satisfying sound that people hear when they over-stretch their fingers.

The medical director of the Providence Arthritis Center at Providence Portland Medical Center, Peter Bonafede, M.D. conducted some research on the subject of knuckle cracking.  Dr. Bonafede’s research points at one study that was conducted in 1990.  Hand function was studied in 200 people older than 45.  There were 74 habitual knuckle crackers in the group.  The knuckle crackers were more likely to have swollen hands, and reduced hand strength but they were not more likely to have arthritis.

But even though cracking your knuckles may not lead to cmc arthritis, it is still gross.



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