Knuckle cracking and hand osteoarthritis

J Am Board Fam Med. Mar-Apr 2011;24(2):169-74. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2011.02.100156.


Background: Previous studies have not shown a correlation between knuckle cracking (KC) and hand osteoarthritis (OA). However, one study showed an inverse correlation between KC and metacarpophalangeal joint OA.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective case-control study among persons aged 50 to 89 years who received a radiograph of the right hand during the last 5 years. Patients had radiographically proven hand OA, and controls did not. Participants indicated frequency, duration, and details of their KC behavior and known risk factors for hand OA.

Results: The prevalence of KC among 215 respondents (135 patients, 80 controls) was 20%. When examined in aggregate, the prevalence of OA in any joint was similar among those who crack knuckles (18.1%) and those who do not (21.5%; P = .548). When examined by joint type, KC was not a risk for OA in that joint. Total past duration (in years) and volume (daily frequency × years) of KC of each joint type also was not significantly correlated with OA at the respective joint.

Conclusions: A history of habitual KC-including the total duration and total cumulative exposure-does not seem to be a risk factor for hand OA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Habits*
  • Hand Joints / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / etiology*
  • Osteoarthritis / psychology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors