People who like the popping sound when cracking their knuckles are often warned about possible side effects. But does cracking your knuckles cause arthritis? Although it doesn’t appear to increase the risk of developing the joint disorder, research indicates other problems may arise.
The popping sound that appeals to knuckle-crackers and aggravates some people around them results from bubbles bursting in the synovial fluid, according to Harvard Medical School
. The fluid helps to lubricate the joints. The tiny bubbles within the fluid can pop from negative pressure as the bones are pulled apart through knuckle cracking.
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Still, people who like cracking their knuckles regularly could increase their risk for swollen hands, weakened grip, and even injuries, reports have shown.
The cracking occurs when pulling bones around the joint, bending the joints backward, or moving them sideways, Medical News Today explains. Along with inflammation of the joints
and reduced hand grip, damage to ligaments around the joints and dislocation of tendons may result from knuckle cracking, according to research.
However, that doesn’t mean cracking your knuckles will cause arthritis.
A study of 214 people by researchers at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences reported at Medical News Today found little difference in the development of arthritis between knuckle-crackers and those who did not crack their knuckles. Of those who cracked their knuckles, 18.1 percent suffered from arthritic hands, but so did 21.5 percent of the subjects who didn’t crack their knuckles.
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A 1975 study of 28 people residing in a Jewish nursing home in Los Angeles revealed that those who said they cracked their knuckles were less likely to develop osteoarthritis in the hands than those who said they didn’t crack their knuckles.
The risks of developing arthritis include family history of the condition, injuries to the hands, or using the hands for heavy labor during a person’s lifetime, according to Medical News Today. These factors may be involved for knuckle-crackers and people who don’t crack their knuckles.
Cracking along with pain indicates damage to cartilage or ligaments surrounding the joint. Arthritis sufferers may experience this because of the snapping of swollen tissues, according to WebMD.
Cracking your knuckles does not seem to be linked to causing arthritis, and it may even have advantages. An increase of mobility in the joints may occur shortly after knuckle cracking, Medical News Today reports. It may stimulate nerve endings to relax muscles around the joints.
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