True or false: Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis

Is Cracking Your Knuckles Actually Bad For You?
Is Cracking Your Knuckles Actually Bad For You?


My ten-year-old has this very annoying habit of cracking her joints – all of them – knuckles, back, wrists, ankles. If it can bend, she can crack it. The sound itself grates on my nerves, but worse is her need to make everyone listen. "Mom, did you hear that?! Wait. Wait. Listen again." I keep telling her she is causing long-term damage, just to get her to stop. Am I lying or telling her the truth?

Many people believe that knuckle cracking causes arthritis later in life, but why the sound is made was poorly understood until earlier this year. A study using MRI in slow motion of a knuckle being cracked, showed the popping sound comes from the rapid formation of a gas filled cavity within the synovial fluid. The video of the MRI is pretty cool. Take a look. Since some people can crack their knuckles and some people can't, scientists are still wondering if this can help predict joint problems later in life.

A study, which has withstood the test of time, done in the 1990s and published in the Annals of Rheumatic Disease provided evidence that habitual crackers do NOT end up with a greater incidence of arthritis. However, those who drove everyone crazy with their popping and cracking did end up with more inflammation in the joints and decreased grip strength.

So, while the long-term effects are not debilitating, they do occur, providing me with all the evidence I need to scare my kid into submission. While I would have simply lied to get her to stop anyway, it is always nice to have science on my side.