Mayo Clinic Minute: A hand surgeon's advice on knuckle cracking
Will Joint-Cracking Cause Arthritis?
I have been a chronic neck cracker for years. I try but just can't seem to stop. Does this mean that I am a prime candidate for arthritis?
By Dr. Rodanthi Kitridou
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I have no definitive answer to your excellent question. Scientific publications on the subject of cracking joints generally focus on finger joints, therefore I was unable to find a single study concerning the neck.
The most common joints that are "cracked" are the knuckles (metacarpophalangeal joints) and the middle joints of the fingers (proximal interphalangeal joints). The noise of joint-cracking is considered to be the result of released vibratory energy.
In a 1990 study, 74 persons who habitually cracked their knuckles had no more hand arthritis than 226 patients who did not crack their knuckles. Similar conclusions were drawn from a smaller study of 28 persons.
There is only a report of 2 patients who had joint injuries while attempting to crack their fingers, and these injuries were treated without problems.
It is hard to know or guess what impact, if any, neck cracking has. The cervical spine is a complicated structure made up of bones (the vertebrae), disc joints and facet joints between the vertebrae, the spinal cord and the nerve roots that emanate from the cord. In addition there are ligaments, and a rich component of blood vessels. Given the propensity to develop osteoarthritis of the cervical spine in our later years, it would be advisable to avoid cracking the neck.
Video: Does Knuckle Cracking Cause Arthritis?
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