Do you crack your knuckles out of habit, do it when you are nervous or just love the sensation and popping sound it produces? If you are nodding in affirmation, you must have heard people telling you that knuckle cracking may lead to arthritis. But, is that really so? Let’s find out.
The crackling sound produced when your crack your knuckles is the reason why people relate it to arthritis. It is generally assumed that a cracking noise is produced only when something has been harmed. The truth, however, is that when you compress your knuckles/joints, nothing is being cracked and therefore, there is no risk of arthritis.
The popping sound of knuckle cracking is the outcome of release of gases (oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen) in the bloodstream when pressure is exerted on the knuckles. It is not the sound of your bones cracking or even breaking.
Several studies have been carried out to find out if cracking of the knuckles can cause arthritis. The findings of one such study revealed that there is no apparent association between knuckle cracking and the risk of developing arthritis. But, knuckle-crackers are more vulnerable to swelling of hands and lower grip strength. Another study associated knuckle cracking over a long period of time to the damage of the joint ligaments and dislocation of the tendons. Here are a few of such studies.
A study which was conducted by Dr. Robert L. Swezey and Stuart E. Swezey in 1975 found that no link exists between the habit of knuckle cracking and arthritis. 28 nursing home residents who claimed to have cracked their knuckles earlier in life had volunteered for this study. The researchers took X-rays of the participants’ hands to draw the conclusion of the study.
Another study, published in 1990 in the Annals of Rheumatic Disease, examined 300 habitual knuckle crackers. The study concluded that regular cracking of knuckles cannot be linked with the occurrence of osteoarthritis, however, the volunteers were more likely to experience reduced grip strength and swelling of the hands.
If you are a habitual knuckle-cracker and worried about developing arthritis later in life, you may breathe a sigh of relief as there is enough of evidence available to show that cracking your knuckles does not cause arthritis. Prolonged trauma to the joint, however, may develop problems such as torn ligaments of the knuckle causing intense pain later in life.
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