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Why This Habit Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be

When it comes to cracking your knuckles, there’s a pretty big myth out there that you’ve probably heard once or twice: can that fleeting moment of finger-fun cause arthritis? Before now, educated answers were hard to come by, and oftentimes disagreed with one another when they were spotted.

But after Huffington Post writer Brian Secemsky, M.D. took a survey involving information from different medical databases that included PubMed, Google Scholar, and Web of Science (most of which was small and outdated), he realized there wasn’t enough evidence to link popping your digits with the feared progressive breakdown of joint cartilage known as osteoarthritis (OA).

Knuckle-To-Knuckle: Facts And Myth Square Off

The truth of the matter could be seen in a recent investigation on the conection between knuckle-cracking and OA, which was sourced from the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine (JABFM). The retrospective case-control study was published in 2011 and compared the knuckle-cracking history of older adults with and without radiographic-proof of OA. The insignificant results gave the authors reason to conclude that knuckle-cracking was not a real risk factor for osteoarthritis given their studied population.

Two separate studies sprouted from this one, with both offering up noteworthy weaknesses to their study design. They had small sample sizes, for one, with varying use of objective tools for properly diagnosing OA (for example, xrays), while they also showed a large probability of selection bias. Regardless, neither study depicted compelling evidence linking up knuckle-cracking and developing OA.

What’s The Crack?

Perhaps the saying “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" serves well here, because the question of whether knuckle-cracking leads to arthritis hasn’t yet brought about enough data for any other answer to be plausible.

Because of this, all of you knuckle-crackers out there can give a loud crack in celebration that there looks to be no real association between your favorite finger-folding habit and the development of arthritis.

Share your comments below about what you think about knuckle-cracking and OA.


Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.

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