Cracking Joints and Arthritis

So let’s talk about another common urban myth that occasionally does the rounds – the old wives tale of people who crack their knuckles will end up with arthritis in their hands.

Our parents always told us not to crack our knuckles or we'll get arthritis in the joints. But is this true?

Our parents always told us not to crack our knuckles or we’ll get arthritis in the joints. But is this true?

Knuckle crackers rejoice! This is a common myth that has been circulating throughout the generations. Latest research suggests there is no evidence for the myth. A study in 2012 reported in the American Journal of Medicine looked at the relationship between habitual knuckle cracking and eventual osteoarthritis. Interestingly they found “in these cohorts of persons aged 50 to 89 years, a history of habitual knuckle cracking – including the total duration and total cumulative exposure to knuckle cracking – does not seem to be a risk factor for hand Osteoarthritis”

Why then, do people habitually crack their knuckles?

It has been suggested that people might develop the habit as a means of loosening perceived stiffness in the joints. Other research suggests that the close relationship in the cortex of the brain and the hands. In essence, it is thought that cracking of the knuckles has a profound stimulatory effect in the cortex – providing a type of ‘manual caffeine’ to give us a mental lift. Perhaps this is why we tend to crack our knuckles when we are under conditions of concentrating – much as someone with ADHD will fidget to aid concentration.

Whatever the reason for the habit, it doesn’t seem to cause any long term problems.