This is one of the most common questions I am asked (It goes right up there with, "is it ok if I crack my own neck/back.")
This is the age old question. Was Mom right about the dangers of cracking your knuckles, or is it really not that bad?
Sorry mom's around the world. According to the research, cracking your knuckles is not associated with arthritis of the hands. Let's take a closer look.
First of all, what is the popping sound we hear when someone cracks their knuckles?
All joints contain a fluid called synovial fluid that holds oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide gas. When the ends of a joint are separated the joint space increases by 15-20% creating a temporary vacuum and the gas is rapidly released. This causes the popping sound.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not actually the "bones cracking or popping", in fact it isn't the bones at all. The noise you hear is the gas being released from the joint.
The question still remains: Does it cause arthritis?
Approximately 20 minutes after you (or your kids) have "cracked" your knuckles, the joint slowly returns its normal position and the gases will compress back into the joint. The ligaments around the joint were stretched and will also return back to their normal position. No damage done.
Previous studies have NOT shown a link between knuckle cracking and osteoarthritis. One study in particular concluded that "a history of habitual knuckle cracking, including duration and cumulative exposure - does NOT seem to be a risk factor for hand osteoarthritis.
Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, March 2011
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