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Sharp Health News

Does cracking your knuckles cause arthritis?

Oct. 12, 2015

Cracking knuckles and arthritis

Cracking and popping your knuckles will surely irritate those around you, but is it true that it can aggravate your joints and cause arthritis?

Fear not. According to Dr. Alon Garay, an orthopedic hand surgeon at Sharp Rees-Stealy, “cracking your knuckles is harmless.”

Dr. Garay explains that knuckle cracking is thought to be related to the movement of gasses — possibly nitrogen — in the joints, resulting in the audible crack.

Several studies have tested this myth, including the rather extraordinary story of Dr. Donald Unger, who used 60 years of personal knuckle cracking to create a data set showing no development of arthritis. His findings were published in the Journal of Arthritis and Rheumatism.

As long as it does not cause discomfort or pain in the joints, knuckle cracking is not likely to cause any real harm, according to Dr. Garay.

“While rare and unlikely, if cracking your knuckles becomes strenuous and causes pain, it may be cause for concern,” he says. “If soft tissue damage occurs, ligamentous injury may cause instability,” which can lead to swollen hands or reduced grip strength.

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