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Life in Motion

Fact or Fiction: Cracking Your Knuckles Leads to Arthritis

Joint Health

Many of us have been told by friends or family members to stop cracking our knuckles because it’s bad for our hands and can lead to arthritis. We asked NEBH orthopedic surgeon and hand specialist Hervey Kimball, MD: Why do our joints crack? And does knuckle cracking lead to arthritis?

Why our joints pop and crack

Our joints are covered by the synovial capsule. Within the space of this capsule is the synovial fluid, which acts as a lubricant for the joint. A variety of gases are continuously dissolved in this fluid, including oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. When we crack our knuckles, we stretch the capsule, which releases the gases and forms bubbles, which then are compressed and produce the cracking sound. If you want to crack the same knuckle again, you have to wait until the gases return to the synovial fluid.

So…Does knuckle cracking lead to arthritis?

Although it may annoy your friends, family and coworkers, there is no medical evidence to support that cracking your knuckles leads to arthritis. Studies have shown that no matter how many times a day one cracks their knuckles, they are at no higher risk for arthritis than those who do not crack their knuckles.

If you are concerned about joint pain or swelling in your hands, consult an orthopedic expert.

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