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Knuckles And Arthritis

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How to tell if you have arthritis in your knuckles and an introduction to natural treatment options for knuckles and arthritis.

Possibly all of us have heard our mothers tell us, “Quit cracking your knuckles! You’ll get arthritis!” While medical science has proven without a doubt that people cannot get arthritis in their knuckles from cracking them, knuckles and arthritis often go hand-in-hand with painful, swollen knuckle joints.

The Western Journal of Medicine, the American Journal of Orthopedics, and the Journal of Rheumatology all confirm clinically that the habit of cracking knuckles will not lead to arthritis in the knuckles later in life.

However, scientists in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center noted that people can seriously injure their hands by forcing their knuckles to crack.

Arthritis in the Knuckles

Knuckle pain has a sudden and immediate impact on your ability to perform daily tasks, and one of the most common causes of knuckle pain is arthritis. There are two common types of arthritis that affect the knuckles. These are:

Both of these types of arthritis can have similar initial symptoms, but progress in very different ways.

Osteoarthritis and Knuckles

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of knuckle arthritis.

Not long ago, it was widely believed that osteoarthritis was due to excessive wear in finger joints. This would be problematic for the future of knuckle arthritis because human beings now use their fingers more often for things like typing and cell phones.

However, research has now shown that osteoarthritis is far more complicated, and can be prevented if it's treated early.

It's now believed that osteoarthritis is caused by any and all of the following factors:

  • Body Changes Through Aging – Aging itself does not cause osteoarthritis, but aging itself can cause changes to the body that may make osteoarthritis more common. For example, aging may cause the body to process nutrients differently, which in turn may cause fewer nutrients to reach the joints in the fingers. Cartilage may also harden with age.
  • Obesity – It's not entirely clear how obesity causes arthritis in knuckles, but the link is clear. The most common belief is that excess weight puts a great deal of pressure on the joints to perform their daily tasks, because they are supporting more weight than they were designed to support.
  • Injury – Injuring the joints in your knuckles has the potential to cause osteoarthritis as well. It may not be a major injury – those that play sports may experience some bumps and bruises along the way that may not feel like an injury but can hurt your joints over time.
  • Joint Stress – Any job that involves regular stress on your finger joints may also lead to knuckle osteoarthritis. This includes jobs that take place primarily behind the computer, where typing may cause repetitive stress on the joints.

Genetics may also be a cause of osteoarthritis, though it is widely believed that, while heredity may increase risk factors, many causes of osteoarthritis could still be prevented. While genetics may increase the risk for joint inflammation, there are ways to prevent the extent of that inflammation and whether or not that inflammation still leads to osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Knuckles

Osteoarthritis is a complex disorder, but most of the causes are preventable, and many are due to lifestyle choices or repetitive motion. Rheumatoid arthritis is different.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are disorders where your body's immune system attacks your own good cells, rather than simply fighting germs. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, these cells attack your active joints. As a result of this attack, your joints become inflamed and stiff. Over time the joints start to break down, can actually cause serious physical pain and joint deformity. But in the early stages, rheumatoid has roughly the same symptoms as osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis also usually affects all of the joints in the body, but the joints in your knuckles tend to be weaker and more sensitive so they are usually the first to experience the symptoms.

Does Knuckle Cracking Lead to Arthritis?

Contrary to popular belief, knuckle cracking does not in fact cause arthritis, so those that crack their knuckles are unlikely to be at an increased risk for developing the disease. However, studies do note that cracking knuckles may lead to some type joint damage, which could conceivably contribute to minor joint inflammation. In addition, knuckle cracking has been linked to problems with grip strength, so while knuckle cracking does not lead to arthritis, it's still not a recommended practice if you can prevent it.

Arthritis in Knuckles Checklist

Arthritis can be very common, but not all cases of knuckle pain are arthritis. If you have injured your knuckles, for example, you may experience some degree of knuckle pain without necessarily having either type of arthritis. You may simply need to give your time joints to rest and heal and the pain will go away. However, if you're experiencing the following symptoms, you may have knuckle arthritis:

  • Knuckle joint pain.
  • Stiffness in the knuckles/trouble with movement.
  • Swelling in the knuckles/fingers.
  • Small bumps under the skin (more common as the disorder progresses).
  • More pain after inactivity (rheumatoid arthritis only)
  • Less pain after movement (rheumatoid arthritis only)

Without treatment, your joints are unlikely to heal, so if your symptoms tend to go away over time it is unlikely to be arthritis. If, however, your symptoms stay the same or get worse, your chances of having arthritis increase.

Natural Treatments and Prevention for Knuckles and Arthritis

Although arthritis is a common condition, it is preventable in many cases, and treatable in others. Many cases of arthritis are caused by unhealthy lifestyle and diet choices. Although some people are more predisposed to getting arthritis pain in their knuckles, even a person with genetic arthritis can lessen their pain by applying the following lifestyle changes and home remedies to their daily life.

Lifestyle Changes

Arthritis can often be prevented with healthy lifestyle choices. While that doesn’t help if you already have arthritis, the preventive measures are also treatment measures if you already suffer from knuckle pain due to arthritis. If you know family members suffer from arthritis in their hands or if you have already started to feel twinges of arthritis yourself, implement these lifestyle changes as soon as possible to prevent further pain and injury in your knuckle joints.

Weight Loss

You are more likely to suffer from arthritis pain in the hands and knuckles if you are overweight. Every extra pound you remove is lessening pressure and weight on your legs and in your hands. In some cases, losing just 10 or 20 pounds will help you relieve arthritis pain throughout the body. Exercise and a healthy diet are the best ways to lose weight.


In addition to losing weight, exercise is essential to relieving arthritis symptoms. The only exercise you should avoid is running, but only if you have arthritis pain in your knees. If you have arthritis pain in your knuckles and hands only, you are free to do whatever exercise makes you happiest. Cross training will maximize your workouts and help tone and tighten your muscles faster. Look for programs that use both aerobic exercise, which includes biking, swimming, or running, and strengthening exercises, like weights and push ups.


If you’re suffering from arthritis pain in your knuckles, acupuncture can relieve temporary stiffness and pain until the other lifestyle changes you make take effect. Clinical trials have found that acupuncture is most helpful for individuals with osteoarthritis, but it doesn’t’ work for all patients.


Simply massage can go a long way toward treating pain and stiffness in the knuckles. Individuals with knuckle arthritis can benefit from daily massages to relive stiffness and pain in the hand joints. Arthritis often comes along with nerve paint and poor blood circulation due to muscle tension, which comes with its own set of problems. Massaging the hands can help relieve this pain and stiffness.

If you notice pain in your hands when massaging, reduce the pressure and gradually build up to longer massage sessions until the pain is gone.


Researchers have found that supplements can go a long way in preventing and treating arthritis pain in the hands and knuckles. Certain supplements are best for the differing causes of pain in the hands, whether it is rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. Read the guide below to find the right supplements for your particular arthritis.


Glucosamine is a helpful supplement for arthritis. According to researchers, it can reduce pain and stiffness, but you need the right form of glucosamine. The type of glucosamine that is helpful is called glucosamine sulfate.

There is some evidence that suggests that glucosamine alleviates arthritis pain, but the type of glucosamine matters. Studies have found that taking 1500 milligrams of glucosamine sulfate helped patients see relief from arthritis pain. But be careful, most supplements in the United States do not use the correct form of glucosamine, which means they will not be effective.


Chondroitin is a supplement for arthritis that helps with prevention, but not curing. Studies have found that when patients took chondroitin, their arthritis symptoms slowed, but did not do anything to stop existing pain. However, 800 or 1200 milligrams of chondroitin taken daily can help prevent further progression of arthritis in the hands.

SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine)

SAM-e is a pain reliever that also reduces inflammation in the hands and joints. Studies have found that SAM-e supplements are just as effective in reducing arthritis pain as over-the-counter pain relievers without any of the side effects. Best results are seen when SAM-e is used with osteoarthritis.

Boswellia Serrate

Boswellia (also known as frankincense) has both anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties, just like many of the other supplements on this list. Boswellia has been shown in studies to reduce the pain of arthritis caused by osteoarthritis. The supplement was also found to slow damage in the cartilage within three months of use.


Magnesium is used in over 300 processes in the body, but many Americans are deficient in this vital mineral. Magnesium helps relax muscles and ease pain, and it also helps bones maintain their strength. This beneficial mineral can help slow the damage that arthritis causes in knuckle joints and is a good all-around supplement to take daily.


Capsaicin helps reduce pain by reducing substance P, which is a pain transmitter. Capsaicin has been shown in numerous studies to help with pain relief when taken as a supplement or applied topically. You’ll find capsaicin in many topical creams for arthritis pain, but you can also add it in supplement form. This supplement works for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


Turmeric contains the vital ingredient called curcumin, which reduces joint pain and inflammation. Turmeric works by blocking the production of enzymes that create pain and inflammation in the joints. In one study, individuals with arthritis who took turmeric supplements had improved function and reduced pain within just a few days. This supplement works with both OA and RA.

Cat’s Claw

Cat’s claw is a useful supplement that reduces inflammation in the hand joints. Cat’s claw also boosts the entire immune system, which is good for RA. In one study, taking Cat’s claw reduced pain and swelling by over 50 percent for individuals with RA.

Fish Oil

Fish oil is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been studied extensively for use with arthritis. This form of oil helps reduce inflammation throughout the body. Fish oil is beneficial for both RA and OA.


Ginger is a spicy plant that reduces inflammation. Ginger is so effective in relieving pain, it has been compared with the effectiveness of over-the-counter pain relievers. Supplementing with ginger extracts for three months was able to reduce OA pain and worked as effectively as taking NSAIDs two or three times a day for the same period.

Other Supplements to Try
- Yucca
- Devil's claw
- Willow bark
- Ginseng
- Reishi
- Skullcap
- Valerian
- Feverfew
- Stinging nettle


Your diet can play a significant role in how much arthritis pain you have. Even if you have a genetic predisposition to attires pain in the knuckles and elsewhere, changes you make in your diet can slow or prevent the natural progression of arthritis. As a bonus, your entire health will improve including weight and muscle strength with the right balanced diet. Add more of these foods to your diet and relieve arthritis pain.

Foods to Eat for Knuckle Arthritis


  • Fish
  • Soy
  • Dairy
  • Olive oil
  • Cherries
  • Citrus
  • Green tea
  • Broccoli
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Garlic
  • Nuts


In addition to these foods, add more probiotics and fermented foods to your diet. In one study, it was found that when study participants ate a daily probiotic, they had less overall inflammation. Fermented foods also provide the same benefits while aiding your digestion and boosting the nutrient intake of your body.

Home Remedies for Knuckle Arthritis

If you are suffering from arthritis pain in your knuckles and hands, try the following home remedies to alleviate temporary pain until the long-term solutions kick it. These five home remedies can really help reduce pain over the short term without turning to pain relievers that can come with unwanted side effects.

Epsom Salt

Epsom salt contains magnesium sulfate which is a mineral that helps relieve pain naturally. Whip up this recipe and soak your sore hands in it for up to 30 minutes a day. You can do this in the morning if you wake up with stiff joints, or put it in your bath at night for a longer soak. Add ½ a cup of Epsom salt to a large bowl of warm water for a short-term soak, or add two cups of Epsom salt to your bath at night.

Blackstrap Molasses

Blackstrap molasses is known as the “healthiest” sweetener because it is high in minerals of all kinds, including magnesium and calcium, both good for bones and preventing arthritis pain. Make some green tea and add a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses to it for a healthy sweetened drink that tastes amazing and fights arthritis pain at the same time.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil contains properties that eases pain in the joints. The best way to use is it to apply it directly to your joints. Please note that olive oil isn’t the best for moisturizing the skin. It can damage the skin, but it works well to relieve swelling, pain, and stiffness in the hands and knuckles. Warming the oil slightly will make it easier to rub into the body and feel better than cold oil. Massage the oil into the skin until it is fully absorbed. You may want to follow up with some coconut oil for a moisturizer to heal any damage the oil may have done to your skin.

Peppermint and Eucalyptus Oil

If you’re suffering from temporary pain in your knuckles, applying a peppermint and eucalyptus oil blend can be of benefit. You will need 2 tablespoons of a carrier oil (grape seed or almond oil work well as carrier oils). To the carrier oil, add 2 drops of peppermint oil and 3 drops of eucalyptus oil. Mix, then rub into the skin where it is painful.

You can save any remaining oil for an application at a later date. Just store it in a dark bottle in a cool, dry place.

Pectin and Grape Juice

Pectin is the gelatin of plants. You can also use gelatin for the same benefit. Mix a teaspoon of pectin or gelatin into a glass of grape juice. Grape juice naturally fights inflammation, so this mixture is ideal to relieve temporary arthritis pain. Drink the mixture quickly, or it might start to gel and it will be harder to drink. You may need to drink this remedy once a day for a month before full results are seen.

Preventing Knuckle Arthritis is the Best Treatment

The best cure for knuckles and arthritis is to prevent it. Preventive measures can be taken even if you already suffer from symptoms. If your symptoms are mild, watching your weight and eating the right foods might be enough to keep symptoms away. But if your symptoms are severe, you may need to take the full gambit of home remedies for arthritis to alleviate existing symptoms. The biggest effect you can have is by keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and adding anti-inflammatory supplements to your daily routine.

Add in the external treatments when you feel your symptoms start to return, which is more likely in bad weather and in colder temperatures.





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