Knuckle Cracker

Knuckle cracker or not, here’s what you need to know about arthritis

Have you ever had someone tell you that cracking your knuckles will lead to arthritis?

While this notion has been widely accepted, there is no known correlation between knuckle cracking and arthritis. Whether you are a knuckle cracker or not, your chance of developing arthritis is high.

Arthritis affects nearly 30 percent of adults aged 45-64 around the world, making arthritis the leading cause of disability for adults in the U.S. Out of the 47.5 million U.S. adults with disabilities, 8.7 million of them report having arthritis.

Considering the large grip arthritis already has on older Americans, it is important to understand the symptoms, treatments, and preventative habits to prepare for these changes when they inevitably occur.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is an overarching term used to describe over 100 different types of the joint diseases or joint conditions. Individuals living with arthritis experience swelling or tenderness of joints that leads to stiffness, lack of motion, and pain. Which joint experiences the pain is determined by their genetics and physical well-being.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, closely followed by rheumatic arthritis and fibromyalgia. OA slowly deteriorates the cartilage, which allows for frictionless movement in the joints, which can lead to bone rubbing on bone. The entire joint and tissues that hold the join in place are also subject to deterioration.

RA tends to have the same symptoms as OA, but RA is an autoimmune disease. RA is characterized by the immune system attacking the healthy lining of the joints, called synovium. The synovium becomes swollen and inflamed, leading to damage to the cartilage.

Arthritis tends to be a slow, gradually emerging condition, which is why many people do not realize they have arthritis until an older age.

Treatments of arthritis

Arthritis is currently treated with several different medications, therapies, and surgeries aimed at increasing joint strength.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like Ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen are often used to help fight inflammation in the body. This is essential for individuals living with inflammatory forms of arthritis as NSAIDs help to minimize pain and make life a little more manageable.


Arthritis can be hard to prevent, but it is not impossible. It takes an extreme dedication to taking care of yourself and living a healthy lifestyle.

Arthritis studies have tested different interventions that an individual can take to minimize their risk of arthritis. Exercise proves to be a powerful force in fighting against arthritis. Obesity increases the likelihood of arthritis, as the joints are bearing more weight. A study from Chinese scientists showed that arthritis increased by 30 percent in people who were obese.

As a result, aerobic exercise is recommended for those living with osteoarthritis. Aerobic exercise can improve cardiovascular health, help control weight, and give you more stamina and energy – all of which are benefits that curb obesity.

Exercising with arthritis

If you or someone you know is taking steps to work through arthritic pain, it is important to start slow. Do not put more stress on your body, rather move around minimally and see what feels comfortable for you.  

Low-impact aerobic exercises that are joint-friendly include walking, bicycling, swimming, and jogging on an elliptical.

Most importantly, talk to a health professional or an exercise expert to decide what exercises are right for you. Arthritis may be painful, but it is certainly manageable.

Research at the Center

Several affiliate faculty members at CSU’s Columbine Health Systems Center for Healthy Aging have conducted research studies on arthritis and related conditions to help devise other interventions to manage arthritic pain.

For example, Associate Director Karyn Hamilton has collaborated with Dr. Kelly Santangelo — an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology, and Associate Professor Raoul Reiser, also in the Department of Health and Exercise Science, to understand how skeletal muscle changes as OA progresses in guinea pigs. As a result, the team has established the guinea pig as a model to better understand musculoskeletal decline, and especially osteoarthritis, in humans and animals.

Additionally, Dr. Felix Duerr – director of small animal orthopedic medicine and mobility services at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital – has a research program that aims to improve quality of life in dogs suffering from orthopedic disease, including arthritis. Listen to Duerr’s feature on the Center’s living healthy longer podcast.

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Grace Weintrob is a senior majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in Stage, Sports, and Film Production at CSU. She is currently working as the digital media intern for the Columbine Health Systems Center for Healthy Aging.