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Does Cracking Your Knuckles Actually Cause Arthritis?

Do you crack your knuckles regularly? If so, you’ve probably heard someone tell you that you’re going to get arthritis if you continue. This is a common misconception — while it can scare people enough to stop cracking their knuckles, knuckle-cracking isn’t actually a cause of arthritis. So let’s debunk this myth and look at some actual causes of arthritis.

Understanding the Myth

Scientific studies have found no connection between cracking your knuckles and developing arthritis. This is a common misconception because most people know that when a joint sustains trauma, it could be a risk factor for arthritis. And when you crack your knuckles, it can sometimes sound like trauma. The sound that cracked knuckles make is simply air bubbles of fluid surrounding the joint collapsing. A 2010 study looked at the x-rays of over 200 people — 20% of whom claimed they regularly cracked their knuckles. When looking at the x-rays, those who cracked their knuckles were no more likely to have arthritis than the non-crackers. So while cracking your knuckles isn’t necessarily good for you, it probably won’t give you arthritis.

Actual Causes of Arthritis

While knuckle cracking isn’t a known cause of arthritis, there are several causes of different types of arthritis. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis. This type occurs when the cushioning surface on the bones wears away over time. Old age, a previous injury, genetics, and excess weight can all be causes of osteoarthritis. This condition may warrant the need for a knee replacement or surgery on another problematic joint.

There is a type of arthritis that can be caused by bacteria or a virus. Food poisoning, STDs, and blood infections can all cause bacteria or a virus to trigger joint inflammation, resulting in infectious arthritis. Fortunately, most cases of infectious arthritis can be treated with antibiotics, but some can become chronic.

Arthritis isn’t uncommon — in fact, one in seven Americans suffer from some type of orthopedic impairment, like arthritis. Fortunately, with the help of an orthopedic doctor, there are several options for arthritis pain treatment. Whether it’s a knee replacement, physical therapy, or proper medications, most cases of arthritis can be treated.