Is it bad to crack your knuckles?

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Is it bad to crack your knuckles?
« on: 12/10/2008 12:30:13 »
Karen asked the Naked Scientists:

I would like to get a "definitive as possible" answer to whether it is bad to pop or crack your knuckles (or other joints).

What do you think?


Offline chris

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Is it bad to crack your knuckles?
« Reply #1 on: 12/10/2008 13:12:53 »
That cracking your knuckles causes arthritis is a very common myth unsupported by evidence.

The reason that joints "crack" is that when you pull on them, or put the joint into a certain position, the pressure drops within the synovial fluid that lubricates the joint. This pressure drop encourages a gas bubble (containing mostly carbon dioxide) to form within the joint, taking up about 15% of the joint space. This pushes on the ligaments and other structures that surround the joint making them pop outwards, producing the first of the two noises that you hear when you crack your knuckles.

Next, when the joint is moved again the pressure increases, causing the CO2 bubble to abruptly implode, which produces shockwaves and also sucks back in the ligaments. This we hear as the second cracking / snapping noise. Measurements suggest that the enegry unleashed when this happens is only about 7% of the amount you would need to damage cartilage, making knuckle-cracking an unlikely cause of arthritis.

In terms of clinical studies, one dedicated researcher - Daniel Unger - published a personal report in 1998 (in Arthritis and Rheumatism) of the effect of 50 years of knuckle cracking of his left hand, but not his right hand. He had no excess of arthritis in his left hand compared with his right.

In a slightly larger (and therefore possibly more reliable) study, Jorge Castellanos published a paper in 1990 documenting findings from 350 people who had cracked their joints for 35 years. There was no excess of arthritis in these individuals compared with non-cracking controls!

Arthritis aside, it still may not be a good idea to crack joints because although the 350 people in the study didn't appear to have any joint damage their grip strength was 1/4 of what it should have been.

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Offline Simulated

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Is it bad to crack your knuckles?
« Reply #2 on: 12/10/2008 13:50:12 »
Well, I know someone. That cracks their knuckles like all the time. And one time they didn't go back. haha they just sorta stayed in way they were. if you know what i mean by that? their finger basically didn't go back to straight it was bent.

dumbo.. ha


Offline turnipsock

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Is it bad to crack your knuckles?
« Reply #3 on: 12/10/2008 15:50:42 »
There was evidence to suggest that your grip is weaker because you crack your knuckles.

I crack my knuckles all the time and often, when I have to hold hands, I can't help cracking the womans knuckles as well.

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