Does cracking your knuckles give you arthritis?
August 16, 2004 4:35 AM   Subscribe

"If you keep cracking your knuckles, you'll get arthritis when you're older." Is that actually true? Is there any risk for compulsive knuckle-crackers?
posted by sailoreagle to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
Not according to santa claus.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:58 AM on August 16, 2004

I've read lots of stuff that says you can't get arthritis from cracking your fingers. Some of it was from the doctor. No-one ever believes me.

But then, I've been cracking my fingers for over ten years, and I regularally crack every joint in my fingers.

Now, if it gets cold, my fingers start aching and stiffening, and I can only stop the pain by clicking them.

Something tells me this doesn't bode well.
posted by twine42 at 8:35 AM on August 16, 2004

I've also heard from very good doctors that there is no evidence that cracking knuckles promote arthritis.

But once you start, you can't stop - not even if you wanted to! I too find that my knuckles/joints get stiff/achy and is only relieved by cracking.

So, kiddies, put this is the same bucket as smoking -- just don't start!
posted by evening at 9:02 AM on August 16, 2004

I've heard that cracking in a rotational motion (palm over fist and then press with heel of hand on second knuckles, or the ever popular interlace-fingers-palms-out-and-press techniue) is bad, but "popping" - cracking the knuckles by pulling the fingers away from the hand - was ok. This was told me by a chiropractor, however, so its probably bullshit.
posted by ChasFile at 9:22 AM on August 16, 2004

chas, that's not to mention that the entire practice of...chiropraxis, chiropractology, or whatever you'd call based on this very thing. I'm one of those folks who can basically pop just about every joint in my body, and does, so I've always hoped it's not bad in the long run, but my back and neck never really popped until I went to a chiropractor once, and now they pop constantly.

Of course, a chiropractor would tell you that that's bad, since you're popping the back joints that are already prone to pop, and leaving the ones that are locked up locked, but hey--my back didn't even pop before I went to one.
posted by LairBob at 9:43 AM on August 16, 2004

My hand doctor (yes, I had one when I had an operation on my right hand to fix a bad break) told me that cracking yoru knuckles does nothing other than irritate your neighbors. It caues the release of gas in the joints (hence the popping sound) and can be relaxing, but as long as it's not constant, it causes no problems.

And heck, if a specialis says that, I'd believe it over those stupid myths...
posted by Dantien at 9:50 AM on August 16, 2004

However, its also a form of stretching tho and can alter ligaments/tendons and have secondary effects, both good or bad in joint function and range of motion.
posted by Fupped Duck at 10:41 AM on August 16, 2004

I've cracked my knuckles for a long time now, and they do ache sometimes. And I'm only 33.

Cracking your sternum is much more fun.
posted by goethean at 10:55 AM on August 16, 2004

Actually, it's the collapse of the gas bubbles that makes the pop.

When you "pop," you're first reducing the pressure in the joint so much that gasses [technical term here] "bubbles" out of the fluid. When you release pressure the bubble collapse back on themselves, creating a small seismic shock.

It's thought that that shockwave may be harmful to the cartlidge and other joint structures. You gotta admit, the bubbles gotta be really damn small considering how little space there is in the joint, so to make an audible and sometimes physical sensation they must be collapsing some damn hard.

A microscopic jackhammer to the tissues, basically. Ouch.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:30 AM on August 16, 2004

Cracking your sternum is much more fun

Praise be, I thought I was the only mutant who could do that.

Is it not... disconcerting?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:11 PM on August 16, 2004

My knuckles crack every time I close my fists. I've also heard that its a rumour cracking knuckles is a bad thing.
posted by xammerboy at 12:43 PM on August 16, 2004

Done it all my life...knuckles are big but I like em' that way and so does my girl.
posted by BMF at 1:42 PM on August 16, 2004

How many people immediately cracked their knuckles upon reading this thread? I know I did.
posted by adrober at 5:45 PM on August 16, 2004

I read a study once where a doctor tracked his cracking habit for 10 years, and those of some volunteers. He determined that there might be a slight weakening of grip, but nothing signifigant. I'm talking very very minor. Wish i could remember where I read it. Slashdot maybe?
posted by madmanz123 at 6:22 PM on August 16, 2004

A doctor I spoke to recently said that no one even knows for sure what is happening when you crack your knuckles. His understanding is that the gass bubbles theory and the snapping sinews theory are just theories.

I've been cracking my toes all my life, and I have had lots of joint problems, including some arthritis, but never in my toes.
posted by scarabic at 6:39 PM on August 16, 2004

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