Knuckle cracking doesn’t really hurt

The Pediatric Insider

© 2013 Roy Benaroch, MD

Does knuckle cracking really cause arthritis? I’ve been asked by parents to tell kids that—but I’ve thought it was a little white lie perpetuated by parents to keep their kids in line.

One very curious man spent 50 years of his life trying to figure out if cracking his knuckles was really as dangerous as his mother said.

The single author of this study, Dr. DL Unger, cracked the knuckles of his left hand twice a day for 50 years. His right hand served as his control, and was never cracked. After 50 years, his hands were essentially identical, with no evidence of arthritis in the hand whose knuckles were cracked about 36,500 times.

I suppose a larger group of participants would have been better, but otherwise the study design is sound. Fifty years! I suppose, since the study was published, maybe Dr. Unger is enjoying cracking his right hand knuckles. Or maybe he’s found another hobby entirely. In any case, hats off to Dr. Unger for his 50 year experiment. We can all rest easy. Except grandma, who still hates it when you crack those knuckles!

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