Health

Does cracking knuckles cause arthritis?

Cracking of joints, also referred to as “popping”, is a form of joint manipulation that produces a popping or cracking sound, as may occur during knuckle-cracking, a deliberate action.
People can crack several joints in their bodies, including the hips, wrists, elbows, back and neck vertebrae, toes, shoulders, feet, jaws, ankles and Achilles tendon.
Does cracking one’s knuckles cause arthritis?
Researchers from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland, USA, carried out a study – “Knuckle Cracking and Hand Osteoarthritis” – published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine (April 2011 issue).
Senior author, Kevin deWeber, MD, FAAFP, USUHS, explained that previous studies had not shown a link between knuckle cracking and hand osteoarthritis. One study, however, suggested an inverse correlation between knuckle cracking and metacarpophalangeal joint (knuckle joint) osteoarthritis.
Dr. deWeber and team set out to determine whether knuckle cracking might be linked to hand osteoarthritis. They carried out a retrospective case-control study involving 214 people, of whom 135 had radiographically proven hand osteoarthritis and 80 did not (healthy controls). The participants were aged from 50 to 89 years; they had all received a radiograph of the right hand during the previous five years.
The researchers gathered data on the participants’ frequency, duration and details of their knuckle cracking behavior, as well as any known risk factors for osteoarthritis of the hand.
Dr. deWeber and team found that:
20% of all the 215 participants cracked their knuckles regularly
18.1% of those who cracked their knuckles regularly had hand osteoarthritis
21.5% of those who did not crack their knuckles had hand osteoarthritis
The researchers said the difference in the prevalence of osteoarthritis between the knuckle crackers and non-knuckle crackers was not significantly statistically different.
The authors wrote:
“When examined by joint type, knuckle cracking (KC) was not a risk for OA in that joint. Total past duration (in years) and volume (daily frequency ‘- years) of KC of each joint type also was not significantly correlated with OA at the respective joint.
A history of habitual KC – including the total duration and total cumulative exposure’”does not seem to be a risk factor for hand OA.

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