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Will Cracking My Knuckles Give Me Arthritis?

Author: Niki L. Carayannopoulos, DO

For some people, it’s the most satisfying feeling in the world.

For others, it’s like nails on a chalkboard.

If you’re reading this post, I’m going to guess you’re either a proud knuckle-cracker looking for justification, or a spouse/parent/best friend who absolutely can’t stand this habit and needs a vindictive blog post that can be forwarded on to the knuckle-cracking offender in your life!

Well, there may be a little truth to be found on both sides.

Why Cracking Your Knuckles Isn’t A Big Deal

If you really enjoy cracking your knuckles, well… crack away. (So long as you aren’t driving the people around you crazy!) Multiple studies have been done, and so far, there is no evidence to suggest that people who crack their knuckles are at a higher risk for developing arthritis.

So, the short answer is, “no.”

Cracking your knuckles will not give you arthritis. When you crack or “pop” your knuckles, you’re essentially releasing gas (tiny bubbles of nitrogen) from the synovial fluid in the space surrounding the joint. The cracking sound and sensation is the result of gas escaping.

But There’s More… (The Longer Answer)

While cracking your knuckles isn’t associated with arthritis, one study found that “habitual knuckle crackers were more likely to have hand swelling and lower grip strength.” Whether or not knuckle cracking, itself, directly causes swelling and lower grip strength is not established. However, a cause-and-effect relationship could certainly be the case here.

Should I Stop Cracking My Knuckles?

Cracking knuckles is a nervous or idle habit that isn’t going to cause arthritis, but could possibly lead to swelling and loss of grip strength. For these reasons, it would be advisable not to crack your knuckles.

If you decide you want to stop, pay attention to when and why you crack your knuckles. Stress? Fatigue? Boredom? Satisfaction? Identify the actions, thoughts or environments that cause you to engage in this behavior. Then, come up with an alternative behavior: something that can “scratch the itch” without potentially putting your health at risk!

Questions? See a Houston Orthopedic Doctor.

For more information about popping joints, cracking knuckles, or any other orthopedic questions, see an orthopedic provider near you in Houston. Schedule an appointment at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics by calling (713) 756-5546. You can also schedule your appointment online.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.