Whether you heard it from your mum or granny, all of us learnt at a young age that cracking our knuckles would make us get big ugly knobby knuckles or worse, we’d get arthritis and wouldn’t be able to move our fingers when we were old!
While some of us were fearless (or stubborn) and overcame this fear as we grew up, for most of us, cracking our knuckles remained an occasional guilty pleasure.
However, you may not have to control yourself for much longer, a recent study shows that cracking your knuckles may not be so bad after all and in fact, it may even be good for you.
What Causes The Sound When You Crack Your Knuckles?
A study was conducted by Dr. Robert Szabo, the former president of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and Dr. Robert Boutin, a radiologist at UC Davis to understand the phenomenon of the sound that accompanies cracking knuckles.
It was earlier believed that gas bubbles form in your joints and that cracking your knuckles was similar to “popping” this bubble which created the sound.
Here’s What Really Happens When You Crack Your Knuckles:
However, Dr. Szabo demonstrated that this is not the case. There is dissolved gas present in the joint fluid and when you pull your joints apart, it creates negative pressure (like a vacuum) and so the gas comes together to form the bubble-the sound is made by the sudden creation of the bubble and not by it “popping.”
Is Cracking Your Knuckles Really Harmful?
The study observed the effects of knuckle cracking on people who did not habitually crack their knuckles as well as those that did it up to 20 times a day.
They found that, contrary to expectations, people had an increased range of motion after they cracked their knuckles as compared to before their knuckles were cracked.
Furthermore, habitual knuckle-crackers did not seem to have any sort of joint problems. An earlier study on the relation between habitual knuckle cracking in children and arthritis, found that there was no link either and that knuckle cracking does not lead to any sort of degeneration of the joints or arthritis.
The study was presented at a meeting of the Radio-logical Society of North America but it has not yet been published. Furthermore, as the co-authors of this study are quick to point out, this study only focused on the short term effects of knuckle cracking.
However, to date, there is no evidence that shows there is any link between knuckle cracking and arthritis or any other joint problems… and it’s obviously not for lack of trying!
Whether this can cause harm will depend on the person and his or her anatomy. But if a weird sound emanates from your shoulder or knee when you flex it a certain way, you may want to avoid angering that area with deliberate cracking.
So, compulsive joint-manipulators, rest easy: the only cracks you need worry about now are the ones you step on.