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OA and Knuckle Cracking

April 5, 2013

Knuckle cracking may not lead to osteoarthritis.  But other noises may reflect injury.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always heard that cracking your knuckles was bad for you.  My mother told me I would get arthritis if I didn’t stop.  But recent research published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found no connection between knuckle cracking and ostoearthritis.  Throughout normal daily activities, gas bubbles build up in joint spaces.  When these bubbles burst, it produces the popping sound of the cracking knuckles.  The gasses dissapate without damaging the cartilage in the joint space, and so do not contribute to arthritis.

Not all joint noises are harmless.  Creaking and grinding noises, often in the knee, are called “crepitus”.  These noises can be indicative of damaged or inflamed cartilage.  Crepitus can be distinguished from joint cracking in two very important ways:  crepitus is nearly always associated with pain, and unlike joint cracking, produces the sound or grinding feeling on nearly every motion.

Knee pain is your body’s way of telling you that there is a problem.  So listen to your body, but worry more about how it feels than how it sounds.  If you have any doubts about your health, do not hesitate to contact your doctor and seek treatment.



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