Crack, pop, click — stretching and cracking your knuckles is a hard habit to break, even though it can be a source of annoyance to those around you.
Perhaps that’s why some people have long warned that knuckle cracking can increase the risk of arthritis or other chronic or degenerative conditions. But is there any truth to this claim — or is it just an old wives’ tale?
Does Knuckle Cracking Lead to Arthritis?
Fortunately for aficionados of knuckle cracking, there doesn’t appear to be a link between the habit and any major health problems. In fact, there seems to be no link between knuckle cracking and increased likelihood of developing osteoarthritis.
While one 1990 study did show that people who crack their knuckles regularly tend to experience swelling of their hands and a weaker grip, there has been no further research to support this finding.
Interestingly, NPR recently published a story highlighting what happens to a knuckle during cracking. As it turns out when you crack your knuckles (under an MRI scan), the cracking, snapping sound comes from the formation of a gas bubble.
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The idea that cracking your knuckles leads to arthritis is most likely an urban legend starting by family and friends who were tired of listening to the sound.
A Good Feeling: The Truth on Cracking Your Knuckles
There’s good reason for why knuckle crackers do what they do. Although some people are easily disturbed by the sound — and feeling — of knuckle cracking, others find it pleasurable.
It’s a strange habit, but one that make sense. The act of knuckle cracking can provide those who perform it with a sense of relief from tension and stress, possibly because it stimulates nerve endings as it stretches tendons. So if you’re addicted to this harmless habit, crack away — but you might want to do it in private to avoid annoying your friends!