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Does Cracking Knuckles Cause Arthritis?

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Some people twirl their hair, some people tap their feet, others crack their knuckles. Maybe it’s not something you do every day, but at some point, you have probably found yourself cracking your knuckles. There is no scientific evidence to explain why people do it; some say it’s a nervous habit, while others say it just feels good.

What Happens When You Crack Your Knuckles?

When you “crack” your knuckles, you’re not actually cracking anything. You're doing more bursting than cracking. The popping noise you hear is caused by small bubbles bursting in your synovial fluid, a gel-like substance that lubricates joint spaces. Synovial fluid found between the bones in joint spaces reduces friction and allows for ease of movement.

The sensation of cracking your fingers feels good because it stretches the joint and stimulates nerve endings found along the fingers. Joints usually cannot be cracked more than once within 15-30 minutes, which is about how long it takes for those gases to dissolve back into the synovial fluid.

Does Cracking Your Knuckles Hurt You?

Despite what you may have heard or read on the internet, cracking your knuckles will not give you arthritis. Arthritis is a condition when the points where your bones meet in the joint space develop inflammation and loss of the cartilage surface.

It turns out there is no scientific correlation between cracking your knuckles and developing arthritis in your joints. In fact, studies have shown people with arthritis were not any more likely to be knuckle-crackers.

However, chronic knuckle-cracking might lead to some hand discomfort, including swelling and reduced hand strength.

Need a Hand Check Up?

Ochsner Hand Care Center offers an integrated, comprehensive care team of specially trained surgeons, physician assistants, nurses and occupational therapists who all work together to provide the best care and results for hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder ailments in both adults and children.

Specialized services include hand surgery, microsurgery and occupational therapy.

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