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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, arthritis in knuckles is very real and quite painful.

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 Orthopaedic 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 on 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 in 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 of 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.

The Checklist of Arthritis in Knuckles

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 of 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 Knuckle Arthritis

Arthritis can be prevented with healthy lifestyle choices. Maintaining a healthy weight is very important, as excess weight will continue to put pressure on your joints. Also, you should strongly consider regularly taking a supplement with the following ingredients – especially if you know that your family is prone to developing finger arthritis:

  • Glucosamine – Nourishes the joints.
  • Chondroitin – Lowers the risk of developing further arthritis problems.
  • MSM – Type of sulfur that reduces natural inflammation tendencies.

Treatment for arthritis is very similar. For osteoarthritis, the above ingredients can be highly beneficial, as can any anti-inflammation herbs and nutrients that will reduce further damage to your joints. For rheumatoid arthritis, Omega-3 Fatty Acids are incredibly important, as are herbs like Turmeric root.

Arthritis can be treated with natural ingredients, but it is even easier to prevent. If you believe that you're at risk for developing arthritis, maintaining a healthy weight and taking natural supplements to nourish your knuckle joints is highly valuable. If you believe you've already developed arthritis, it's not too late to nourish your joints, and over time you may be able to help rebuild them using the right combination of herbal supplements. 





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