Myth or Fact: Does Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis?
Woman Cracking Their Knuckles

Many of us have wondered whether cracking our knuckles can lead to the development of arthritis. Is this a FACT or a MYTH? Read on to find out.

Do you know someone who loves cracking their knuckles? While it may be satisfying for some folks, others might find it cringe-worthy. It’s no wonder why we might think that it can cause damage to our joints.

Before we answer the question—does cracking your knuckles lead to arthritis? First, let’s talk about what it is.

So what is arthritis? Often times people are referring to the most common type of arthritis, which is “osteoarthritis.” This is a common condition that can happen as we age.  Genetics and the “wear and tear” of our joints can play a role in developing arthritis over time. Furthermore, it is a degeneration of the cartilage between our joints. Cartilage acts like a cushion that absorbs the shock and physical stress when we load our joints. As this degeneration occurs, it can lead to pain, stiffness, bony enlargement, deformity, and loss of hand function. (Fun fact: The most common joint affected in the hand is our thumb basal joint!)

Now let’s answer the burning question of whether or not cracking your knuckles causes this painful condition, osteoarthritis.

MYTH: Cracking your knuckles DOES NOT lead to the development of arthritis.

Here’s why. The most interesting study proving this was done by a California physician who studied his own hands for 50 years: on one hand he cracked his knuckles twice a day, but avoided it on the other hand.  He then compared x-rays of both hands and found NO difference in arthritis between the two hands. Another study came to the same conclusion.  

If you’re wondering what causes the “pop,” it is believed that separation of the joint results in negative pressure within the joint, which in turn causes the formation and immediate collapse of a gas bubble.

The reason that you can’t crack the knuckle again for about 20 minutes is because it takes some time for the gas to dissolve back into the joint fluid.

So there you have it–cracking your knuckles actually does NOT cause arthritis. Whether or not you find this quirky habit irritating, well that’s another question.

P.S. Are you suffering from joint pain or stiffness due to arthritis? Set up your FREE 15 min. consult today and we can discuss how we can help you address these issues and live with less pain. Call us at 805-495-0516.