Is Hand Arthritis Caused by Cracking Your Knuckles?

Will you get hand arthritis if you crack your knuckles?

Chances are, your mother or grandmother warned you to stop cracking your knuckles as a child. But if you’re like many people, you do it anyway. Up to 45 percent of the population cracks their knuckles habitually.

Hand Arthritis

What Happens When You Crack Your Knuckles?

People used to think that the sound of a cracking knuckle was a bubble of fluid popping as the joint surfaces are separated. This theory has been disproved, however.

When you crack your knuckles, you’re actually expanding the space between the finger bones. This creates negative pressure, which pulls joint fluid into the newly created cavity. The fluid rushing into the joint space is the cause of the popping sound.

The more often you engage in knuckle cracking, the looser the surrounding joint tissues become. When the joint capsule and ligaments are frequently stretched, the more easily your knuckles will crack.

Are Knuckle Crackers at Greater Risk for Hand Arthritis?

Multiple studies have explored the relationship between knuckle cracking and arthritis of the hand. No evidence has been found to indicate that habitual knuckle crackers are more likely to suffer from hand arthritis than people who don’t crack their knuckles.

Although you might still develop arthritis at some point, your habit of knuckle cracking won’t be to blame.

Why Should You Stop Cracking Your Knuckles?

But that doesn’t mean hand doctors recommend continuing the habit.

Research shows habitual knuckle cracking may result in functional hand impairment. Compared to people who don’t crack their knuckles, knuckle crackers often have lower grip strength and increased swelling in the finger joints.

Some studies dispute these findings, but why take a chance on your hand and wrist health? Knuckle cracking is a habit you can kick. Try twirling a pen in your fingers, applying lotion or playing with a fidget spinner whenever the urge hits.

If you have questions about hand and wrist health, Dr. J. Douglas Burrows at the Center of Orthopedic & Rehabilitation Excellence is the go-to northern Utah specialist for diagnosis and treatment of the hands, fingers and wrists.

As a highly trained hand doctor with expertise in the prevention, management and treatment of upper extremity disorders, diseases and injuries, Dr. Burrows can address all your concerns about hand arthritis. To schedule a consultation, contact our office today.