Will I get Arthritis From Cracking My Knuckles? - Body Pain Tips

Will I get Arthritis From Cracking My Knuckles?

Whenever I meet people for the first time and I tell them I’m a hand therapist, almost everyone asks me the same question. “Hey, is it true that you get arthritis from cracking or popping your knuckles?”

Um, no.

Cracking or popping your knuckles only leads to that sigh of relief that we all know and love. AS LONG AS IT ISN’T PAINFUL, it’s completely harmless. (Which is great news for me. My 11-year old pop his back every morning, and also walks around telling people he’s a licensed chiropractor. Please don’t sue him.)

I’m not sure why this myth has been perpetuated for so long, especially with the invention of the internet where you can instantly search the answers to many of life’s great mysteries:

How many dimples in a golf ball?

Do people who are lying always look up and to the left?

Why does pepper make you sneeze?

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll?

Who was the wise guy who built KANSAS city, in Missouri?

Does popping your knuckles give you arthritis?

The list is endless.

Funny thing is, if you are reading this, you most likely FINALLY searched it yourself. Either that or you’re reading this in an email that I sent you because you’re having hand pain. Regardless, the power of the internet is bringing you knowledge. So magical. And here you are.

But I digress. No, the truth is that popping your knuckles is not dangerous to the joints at all. It’s simply a release of gas bubbles in the joint that makes that satisfying popping noise. (Medical professionals call is cavitation.) Chiropractic uses cavitation through manipulation at its very core—to free up tight joints to decrease pain, nerve compression, and muscle spasms.

Therapists use cavitation through something we like to call “joint mobilization” to achieve those same results. We gently glide the bony surfaces against each other in certain directions to decrease tightness in the ligaments, increase joint fluid, and decrease muscle spasms. And just so we’re clear (and since you’re still reading), the “popping” noise isn’t the goal. We can achieve the same benefits without hearing or feeling a pop. It’s just that some people’s joints make noise, and some don’t. (I suppose some people are just gassier than others—wouldn’t you agree?)

Arthritis is caused by overuse and eventual wear and tear on the joints—it has nothing to do with those little gas bubbles. The spongey ends of your bones (cartilage) wears out over time, causing the bones to rub against each other, which causes joint breakdown, or arthritis. Other names for this are osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. And if you want to know more about arthritis (specifically in your hands), check out some of my other blog posts. I’ve got lots of hidden information all over my website.

Read: Arthritis In Knuckles Symptoms – 5 Warning Signs

I’m not going on record as saying that cracking your knuckles is GOOD for you, but while I have your attention I will say this:

Stretching is a very healthy practice to keep your hands (and the rest of your body for that matter) in tip-top shape. And of the people I know that are “chronic crackers”, most of them will also spend time stretching their hands in ways that the rest of us don’t. In this age of laptops and tablets and cell phones (oh my), spending even a couple minutes a day stretching out your hands out is a very smart (and easy) way to keep your hands free from horrible things like tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. So no, I didn’t just tell you to start popping your knuckles, but I would start stretching if I were you.

So, if you are so inclined, crack away!

But be forewarned, your mother still may not like it.

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