Is Cracking Your Knuckles Bad For You?

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How many times a day do you crack your knuckles?

Have you ever wondered why you do it in the first place? Let us delve into the mechanics of knuckle cracking and discover if cracking knuckles is harmful for you.

What makes you crack your knuckles too often?

The popping sound of your finger joints may be a stress buster for you and put you in a relaxed state of mind. It helps loosen up just like rotating your neck eases the strain. However, it doesn’t take long before it turns into an old habit. Knuckle popping also happens when you are feeling anxious. When you are stressed out and thinking of something, you may absent mindedly pop your fingers.

What happens when you crack your knuckles?

Whether you pop your knuckles habitually or sporadically, have you ever wondered how it may affect your joints?

Your knuckle joints are enveloped by a synovial membrane. There is a lubricant within this membrane called synovial fluid that makes joint movement possible. When this fluid is absent due to any reason, your joints come in contact with each other. This leads to friction between the touching joints and causes inflammation, pain and swelling.

Usually you crack your finger joints either by bending them forward, backward or sideways. When you suddenly push the knuckles, the joints separate. This creates a cavity as there is no synovial fluid to fill the increased gap between the joints. This gas filled cavity makes the popping sound when you crack your knuckles.

Does cracking knuckles trigger arthritis?

Your mom might have berated you many times for popping your knuckles. You were warned against triggering arthritis in your fingers due to repeated cracking of knuckles. Well, research has shown no overt link between cracking knuckles and developing osteoarthritis as a result of repeated popping of your finger joints.

Interestingly Dr.Donald Unger conducted a self study on cracking knuckles and its link with arthritis. He cracked the knuckles of his left hand for five decades. He did it twice daily. Finally, after fifty years he concluded that there was no difference between his two hands and that his both hands were free from arthritis.

He was even awarded with Ig Nobel prize in 2009 for medicine. Ig Nobel prize is given on the eve of Nobel prize ceremony for achievements that first make you laugh and then make you think! Infact, Dr.Unger opened his acceptance speech with, “Mother, you were wrong!” You can tell your mom this too!

What are the long term effects of knuckle cracking?

Although knuckle cracking may not lead to arthritis, it may lead to other damaging effects. Regular pulling and popping may damage the ligament of your finger joints. Over time it may lead to swelling in joints, pain and reduce your grip strength. Fully or partially torn ligament in finger joints and finger dislocation may happen due to cracking your fingers over a long time.

Take care of your finger joints and minimize the knuckle popping as it may boomerang in the long run.

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