Available evidence suggests that, according to the Cleveland Clinic, there are few, if any, long-term side effects to worry about.
There are many reasons why people crunch or crunch their knuckles. Some do it as a tic, others do it out of anxiety, others do it to relieve tension and stiffness, and some, especially children, do it simply because it annoys someone.
Many of us first heard as children, and then continued to hear into adulthood, that knuckle cracking can lead to arthritis in old age. Is there any truth in this warning? This is what Lindsey wanted to know, CHECK reader.
Does cracking joints lead to arthritis?
No, cracking your joints will not lead to arthritis.
WHAT WE FOUND
Harvard Health explains that knuckle crunching increases the space between the knuckles of the fingers, causing bubbles of gas in the fluid between the joints to burst. This is what causes the sound we associate with crackling or popping.
The reason it takes some time – usually about 20 minutes – before you can split the same joint again is because it takes some time for the gas bubbles to build up in the joint again.
Decades of research have found no evidence that cracking joints causes arthritis. Research has also found no evidence that crunching joints is beneficial. The practice simply does not affect the development of arthritis.
People are most familiar with the two forms of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, osteoarthritis is a joint disease in which damage weakens the bones in the joints, destroys the connective tissue in the joints, and damages the joint lining. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which an overactive immune system attacks healthy joint tissue.
It is commonly believed that joint cracking gradually wears down the joints to the point where they become damaged, causing osteoarthritis.
But this is not true. Your genetics play the biggest role in determining whether you’ll get osteoarthritis in the future, which usually doesn’t develop in people until they’re 40 or older, says Houston Methodist Hospital.
“The vast majority of patients with arthritis have a genetic predisposition to the condition,” said John Fackler, an orthopedic and sports medicine physician, in a blog post from the Houston Methodist Organization. ligament or meniscus, which increases the risk of developing arthritis in old age.”
Many medical experts agree that joint cracking does not increase the risk of developing arthritis, including Tufts Medical Center, Harvard Health, Cleveland Clinic, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and the University of Arkansas Health Sciences.
Although, if you already have osteoarthritis, the University of Arkansas Health Sciences adds that repeated joint crunching can worsen symptoms. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center adds that twisting and squeezing a joint can aggravate other pre-existing conditions, such as trauma or gout.
There is less consensus as to what other consequences besides arthritis the constant, long-term joint crunching in your hands can have.
The Cleveland Clinic explains that while a 1990s study found that people who regularly crack their knuckles had weaker grip and more swelling, a 2017 study found no difference in grip strength between people who cracked their knuckles and people who who don’t.
“While existing research on knuckle cracking is sparse, the available evidence tells us that there are few long-term side effects to worry about,” says the Cleveland Clinic.
Houston Methodist Hospital notes that, in the short term, joint crunching can cause temporary joint swelling. Harvard Health and the Cleveland Clinic also note that improper knuckle-flicking—pulling or pressing with too much force, or bending the finger in the wrong direction—can damage the connective tissue in the joints or dislocate the finger, and these injuries can sometimes lead to long-term joint damage. . Long-term swelling is a good indicator that you may have such an injury.
“You’ll quickly know if you’ve made a mistake because it will hurt, and cracking your knuckles shouldn’t hurt,” says the Cleveland Clinic.
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texasstandard.news contributed to this report.