I’ve been a knuckle-cracker since middle school, which means I’ve been popping the joints in my hands for more than half my lifetime. While I’ve heard for years from various sources that I’d end up with arthritis, there is no scientific evidence to support that. What I did learn recently, however, is that some research suggests a correlation between habitual knuckle cracking and decreased grip strength.
Decreased grip strength means not only asking my husband to open jars for me (which I already do), but as you age, it could lead to decreased manual dexterity, particularly fine motor control. And that’s bad news for miniature hobby artists, like myself.
From my reading, I’ve learned that you can regain lost grip strength through exercise, which is something I’ve started to do. I hold my hands out, face-up, and roll my fingers in to a fist, then back out again. (You can do this while holding a dumbell, but I don’t have one). I also work on my pinch grip by squeezing a book, thumb underneath, fingers on top, then flipping it over to work the opposite muscles.
While the knuckle-cracking/arthritis link has been thoroughly debunked, there still hasn’t been serious research conducted on the causative effects of knuckle cracking on hand function. All evidence thus far is correlative, only. However, since there doesn’t appear to be any benefit to the habit, and I don’t want to risk losing the ability to paint, I’m going to try to quit.
The real problem with breaking the knuckle-cracking habit is the buildup of tension in the joints that results from cracking, tension that only feels relieved by – more cracking. Stretching the hand can help, but it doesn’t relieve it entirely. I’m hoping that over time, if I stretch, excercise, and refrain from further cracking, that the tension will eventually ease. I guess I’ll find out!