As you sit at your desk and attempt to crack your knuckles, you can’t help but wonder – is this really bad for me? There’s long been a debate about whether or not popping your knuckles can lead to arthritis or other joint problems. Some people swear by the soothing sensation of cracking their joints, while others believe it will ultimately cause damage in the long run.
So what’s the truth? Is there any real scientific evidence behind these claims, or is it all just an old wives’ tale? Let’s take a closer look at the science behind knuckle cracking and what it may do to your joints.
What Exactly Happens When We Crack Our Knuckles?
Before we dive into whether or not this habit can cause long-term harm, let’s first explore what actually happens when we crack our knuckles. Essentially, when you pull on your fingers until they “pop, ” you’re causing bubbles of gas to form in the fluid that lubricates your joints. This creates that satisfying sound that so many people love.
It’s worth noting that while popping noises are most commonly associated with knuckles, they can also happen in other joints like knees and shoulders. The physics behind these sounds are essentially identical.
So Does Cracking Your Knuckles Lead to Arthritis?
Now onto the million-dollar question – does cracking your knuckles put you at risk for developing arthritis down the line? While there hasn’t been a ton of research on this topic over the years, what we do know points towards an answer of “probably not. “
A few studies have explored potential links between hand-cracking habits and conditions like osteoarthritis , but none have found any significant correlation between the two. One particular study from 2011 followed 215 participants over five years and found that those who cracked their knuckles didn’t show any higher levels of arthritis than the control group.
It’s worth noting, however, that there are other potential downsides to popping your knuckles–even if they don’t involve joint health. For example, frequent knuckle cracking can cause damage to the ligaments and tendons in your fingers over time. Additionally, it may lead to weakened grip strength and reduced hand function overall.
Are There Any Benefits to Knuckle Cracking?
Despite all these potential drawbacks of this habit, some people swear by their belief that it actually has beneficial effects on the body. Here are a few supposed pros:
Relief from tension
Many folks find the act of cracking their joints almost addictively pleasant because it provides immediate relief from built-up pressure in their bodies.
No lasting harm
As we mentioned earlier, there’s no real scientific proof linking this practice directly with osteoarthritis or other forms of joint issues down the line. So many see it as rather innocuous behavior.
Cracking one’s joints can be a way for some people to self-soothe when they’re feeling nervous or anxious; it acts like a small physical release valve meant transform anxious energy into something more cathartic than harmful.
Do Professionals Recommend Against Knuckle Cracking?
While science doesn’t seem able nor willing at present day to give us a conclusive answer about whether knuckle-cracking is truly bad for our long-term well-being, professions have weighed in with general guidelines against its habitual abuse:
According Dr Gregory Hausler MD , “There is no obvious medical evidence indicating that [knuckle cracking] should be harmful”.
However he urges caution saying “In general terms, moderation always tends to be healthier. ”
Ginger Kunkel Occupational Hand Therapist warns against excess, “Anything in moderation is fine. . . If it’s done excessively or with too much force, it can lead to cumulative trauma over time. ”
So what does this all add up to? At the end of the day, it seems that if you enjoy cracking your knuckles and aren’t experiencing any pain or discomfort as a result, you don’t have to conclude that it’ll inevitably either destroy your hands; or eventually translate into joint issues.
However, keep in mind: It’s possible that over time , you may experience some physical effects like weaker tendons and ligaments. And if ever find yourself unable to resist the urge suggests at least moderating this behavior.
- Can cracking my knuckles cause arthritis?
There is no evidence so far linking joint-cracking explicitly to osteoarthritis nor Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Is there anything any proven benefits for cracking joints?
Relief from tension and anxiety are two frequently mentioned benefits.
- Should I stop popping my knuckles altogether?
It’s typically not recommended by most professionals/medical experts; however moderation is recommended especially when chronic.