Research shows no link between the compulsive habit and the painful joint condition.
Obsessive knuckle-crackers are probably familiar with the old warning: keep up the noisy habit, and you'll get arthritis someday. If you're like most, though, the thought of aching joints hasn't stopped you from cracking away, however guiltily.
Can cracking your joints really give you chronic osteoarthritis? Or is it just a myth?
Turns out all that finger-wagging isn't what it's cracked up to be (sorry) -- although there's plenty of speculation about how one could fall victim to the condition. It's sometimes said that the amount of force people apply to their knuckles could strain tendons. Others have noted that the mechanism behind the cracking noise -- brought on by a rapid collapse of gaseous bubbles in between your joints into lots of smaller bubbles -- isn't unlike the cavitation that puts wear and tear on ship propellers.
Fed up with being told by family members about the dangers of joint cracking, one researcher decided to test the supposed link between arthritis and knuckle-cracking -- on himself:
For 50 years, the author cracked the knuckles of his left hand at least twice a day, leaving those on the right as a control. Thus, the knuckles on the left were cracked at least 36,500 times, while those on the right cracked rarely and spontaneously.
The scientist proudly reported that his relatives were spreading crackpot (ugh, sorry) theories in a paper published in 1998. The "research" won him an Ig Nobel Prize.