Does Knuckle Cracking Cause OA?

Reference:Deweber K, et al Knuckle cracking and hand osteoarthritis. J Am Board Fam Med. 2011 Mar-Apr;24(2):169-74.

Although with varying frequency it appears that up to 54% of people crack their knuckles, with men being more likely to have this bad habit than women.

As PTs we have all at some point been asked the question, “Does cracking knuckles really cause arthritis in the hands?”

Here is the evidence-based answer.

For this 2011 study, they analyzed individuals knuckle cracking habits (frequency and duration) and their hand radiographs. 20% of the subjects admitted to quite frequently cracking their knuckles. The prevalence of hand OA among those who cracked their knuckles was 18% and those who did not was 21%.

Basically, it appears that a history of habitual knuckle cracking may not be risk factor for developing hand OA. So it is an old wive’s tale!

However the established risk factors for developing hand OA are …


  • age
  • a family history of hand OA
  • previous hand injury (e.g. fracture)
  • a lifetime of heavy labour work with the hands
    Posted on: March 23, 2013

Categories: Wrist & Hand

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