As a child growing up, one of my favorite things to do when I was bored was to crack my knuckles. There was something funny about the sound that it made. There were even times when my friends and I had contests to see who could crack their knuckles the loudest. Whenever my mom caught me practicing my little habit, she would say “Cracking your knuckles is going to give you arthritis.” I’m sure that I am not the only one that has heard that saying before, but how true is it?
TRUE OR FALSE
One doctor actually decided to use himself as the test subject to prove or disprove this old wives tale. Dr. Donald Unger published a letter in 1998 in the Arthritis and Rheumatology Journal. He admitted, that after hearing many of his relatives say that cracking his knuckles would give him arthritis he begin cracking the knuckles on his left hand twice a day at a minimum. According to Dr. Unger; he kept this practice up for over 50 years to see what the outcome would be. The right hand, fifty years later were completely arthritis free, but was the left hand so lucky? Well of course it was.
The 2009 Ig Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Dr. Unger for medical research on the subject. Unlike a real Nobel Peace Prize; these are given to the researchers of questionable studies the day before the actual Nobel Prize is given out. This achievement is for research that is funny but also thought provoking.
What does happen?
That sound that you hear when you “pop” your knuckles does not come from the beginning of arthritis; it comes from CO2 bubbles that burst in the joints when we crack our knuckles. Arthritis may not come as a result of this habit but there is a chance that you could injure your finger joint ligaments. Another study published in the Annals of Rheumatic Disease 1990, found that habitual knuckle cracking can cause the grip strength to decrease, hands to swell, and soft tissue damage to your fingers.
So as you can see; the old wives tale is simply not true. However, you should take heed to the studies that have been done to suggest other problems related to knuckle cracking. Even though you may enjoy doing it and it keeps your boredom level down, you may find the damage that’s done not worth the excitement. By not making this a daily habit the possible outcomes can be avoided. This will not only keep you happy, but anyone that has to endure the crackling sound will be happy too.