Will Cracking Your Fingers Cause Arthritis?

The symptoms of arthritis depend on the type that you have and the location. Common forms of arthritis include osteoarthritis, caused by wear and tear on the joints; rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own joints; and gout, caused by a buildup of uric acid in the body. Symptoms of arthritis include: joint pain and tenderness, inflammation in and around the joints, restricted movement of the joints, and warm, red skin over the affected joint.

Have you heard someone in your life say time and time again, “Stop cracking your knuckles, you will get arthritis.” Believe it or not, that notion is untrue. There is no scientific evidence that has conclusively shown that cracking your knuckles leads to arthritis. Cracking knuckles is still a bad nervous habit to some, and studies have shown that between 25 and 54 percent of people do it to relieve nerves and tension.

All the joints in our bodies are surrounded by a thick, clear liquid called synovial fluid. When you stretch or bend your fingers to pop the knuckles, you are causing the bones of the joint to pull apart. Therefore, when you crack your knuckles, the “popping” sound that you hear is due to the formation and buildup of bubbles and gas in the synovial fluid.

When they are pulled apart, the connective tissue capsule surrounding the joint is stretched. Stretching this capsule causes its volume to increase. As we know from chemistry class, an increase in volume results in a decrease in pressure. So, when the synovial fluid pressure drops, gases dissolved in the fluid become less soluble (dissolvable). If the joint is stretched far enough, the pressure drops so low that these bubbles burst. Thus, that is when we hear the familiar pop we associate with knuckle cracking.

Studies have shown that when testing was done to see if cracking your knuckles causes arthritis, there was no quantifiable difference between those who habitually cracked their knuckles and those who refrained. This is not to say it’s a good habit to crack your knuckles, but at least you can feel more comfortable knowing that it doesn’t directly cause arthritis.

To find out if you may be suffering from arthritis, call Spectrum Orthopaedics at our North Canton office at (330) 305-0838 / (844) 469-2663 or use our online appointment request form.

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