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Does Knuckle Cracking Cause Arthritis

Does Knuckle Cracking Cause Arthritis

Can cracking knuckles really cause arthritis in later life?

Does Knuckle cracking cause arthritis? What a great question to ask. Since a very early age we’ve all been told that cracking our knuckle will cause arthritis in later life, but how true is this statement?

Most experts will agree; this myth is false, knuckle cracking does not led to arthritis. When WebMD spoke with Dimitrios Pappas, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, about the long-term effects knuckle cracking, he was adamant that the popular childhood activity does not lead to crippling joint pain in your senior years.

does knuckle cracking cause arthritis

Does Knuckle Cracking Cause Arthritis

Image Credit: George Foster, 2010.

“There have been a few studies on this. None of them shows any change in the occurrence of arthritis between people who habitually crack their knuckles and those who do not.” [WebMD]

The longest study into such a topic was conducted by one man, Donald Unger, who for 50 years cracked the knuckles in his left hand twice a day whilst leaving his right hand for comparison. After half a century he concluded that there was no arthritis in his left hand. His research netted him the Ig Noble Prize in medicine, a play on the real Noble prize awarded for research that may at first seem crazy, but end up producing viable results that make people think.

Unger, whilst officially the first, was not the only one to conduct such a study, Robert Swezey, M.D., who carried a similar study in 1975 co-authored by his then 12 year old son, also confirms the results.

The cracking noise is not actually made by the bone, it’s actually the sound of a gas bubble that forms and pops as the bones are pulled apart.

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  1. Susan Davis : Does Knuckle Cracking Cause Arthritis? WebMD, 2011.
  2. Steve Mirsky: Crack Research: Good news about knuckle cracking. Scientific American, 12/15/2010.

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