Pop, Crack... Arthritis?


| 3 Comments

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Just like many of you, I'm sure, I enjoy cracking my knuckles, back, neck, ankles, toes...well anything that will crack or pop, I guess.  People have told me that it will give me arthritis or it will make my knuckles fat, but others have told me that it isn't bad for you at all.  What's the real answer?

          

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 First, let's figure out what the popping actually is.  In one study, a microphone was strapped to a finger, and they found that two noises actually happen.  The joint space that is located in between the two ligaments, which are holding the bones together, has a fluid called synovial fluid.  When you push or pull whatever joint you are trying to crack, the pressure is dropping in the joint space, and sucks the ligaments in to the joint space farther than normal.  Once the pressure is too low, a bubble forms and a popping noise is heard. It doesn't end here, though!  At the same time, the fluid is pushing on the ligaments, until the ligaments snap back into their position; making another popping noise.

In a study of 300 people, people who had been cracking their knuckles did have slightly larger knuckles than those who did not.  This is not a big deal, but they also found that those who cracked their knuckles had a grip strength 25% less than it should have been.

The good news, though, is that Johns Hopkins states that knuckle cracking does not cause arthritis!  They found that there was no real difference in the frequency of people getting arthritis in their knuckles whether they cracked them or not.

I found it relieving that my habit of cracking my knuckles will not directly lead to arthritis in the future!  However, it was a little alarming that I am actually decreasing my grip strength every time I crack my knuckles.  This finding isn't nearly bad enough for me to stop my habit, though. 

Here is another interesting source.

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3 Comments

Quinn,
I am so glad you looked more into this. This popular myth has haunted me as a fellow knuckle cracker. I took a look into the Johns Hopkins website and I found it interesting that cracking can cause dislocation of tendons in fingers but not arthritis. When ever I am scolded by someone for cracking my knuckles, the reason is not because I can dislocate a tendon. Although arthritis is not completely understood, it is known that genetics take a large toll in developing arthritis. It gives me some perspective though because I did not know that it decreases grip strength.

This is an exciting revelation for me, I am also a very loyal part of the knuckle craking brigade. I just like to see how many I can do at one time and how loud I can make the "pop." I am glad to hear that this is not detrimental to my knuckle health. I work with a kid who cracks his knuckles to HELP his arthritis. He has rheumatoid arthritis, and he actually says that he has to crack his fingers every few hours to "release the pressure" in his fingers. He says that after he does it his fingers feel better and it actually relieves some pain!

Wow i never thought that cracking knuckles can actually help arthitis. But then again it does feel good when you crack them soo...

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