Does Cracking Your Knuckles Lead To Arthritis?
You might be suprised to know that I never cracked my knuckles as a kid.
‘Yeah right Dr Brad, you’re a chiropractor. I bet you were cracking every knuckle you could find! Your own, your brothers, the cats. Anything!’
No sorry, I didn’t. But trying to get the cat might have been funny! (Joking, I never practiced on the cat, promise.)
Anyway….. it was generally accepted back then in the 70’s and 80’s that cracking your knuckles can lead to arthritis. My mum also used to tell us that punching each other in the arm would cause cancer, but that never stopped us. So even if I was a knuckle cracker, I probably wouldn’t have stopped. Arthritis was for old people, and I was a young person so I didn’t have to worry about it. But I never forgot about it.
This urban myth, like many others at the time, was well known and it was something that you would hear quite often. But is it actually true?
Well, no. There is no evidence that shows that cracking your knuckles, or any other joint in your body for that matter, will lead to arthritis. In fact Dr Donald Unger, a medical doctor, decided at a young age to test out his mothers warning that cracking knuckles causes arthritis. Dr Unger then proceeded to only crack the knuckles in his left hand, and NEVER in his right hand, for 60 years!
He found that there was no difference in the amount of arthritis in his hands after 60 years. Whilst this is only anecdotal evidence from a study size of exactly 1, it still ended up with Dr Unger recieving the Ig Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2009. (It’s like the Nobel Prize, but highlight scientists whose work is somewhere between silly and serious.)
Some serious research has been done that shows that long term knuckle cracking may cause swelling and a loss of grip strength in some people, but no increased risk of arthritis.
So there you go, feel free to crack away, it’s probably not going to cause any harm. Only to the people around you that cringe every time they hear that crunch!