Can cracking your knuckles cause cartilage breakdown?  Can texting trigger hand OA?  Will wearing high heels lead to degeneration of your knee joints? 

If you’re wondering if your habits are cause for concern when it comes to the health of your joints, take a look at what the research has to say about six common lifestyle factors.

Cracking Knuckles

Although knuckle cracking may irritate those around you, a study published last year in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine fails to substantiate a connection between the habit and OA. In the study of 215 people between ages 50 and 89 who had had one x-ray of the right hand during the five past years,  doctors found a similar incidence of knuckle OA in any one joint among people who cracked their knuckles (18.1 percent) and those who didn’t (21.5 percent). The duration in years or frequency of cracking also did not correlate with OA in the respective joint.

Texting

Texting is a quick and convenient way to get messages to friends and colleagues, but if you have a child – particularly a daughter – who is constantly texting, she could be headed for OA down the road, says Yusuf Yazici, MD, of NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City. In a study of 257 children ages 9 to 15, girls who used cell phones reported twice as much pain as boys. Pain was associated with the number of text messages the girls sent, the use of text abbreviations and the type of keyboard on their phone.

The problem, says Dr. Yazici, is that the devices were not designed for children, whose bones and tendons are still developing. Injuries to those structures now, like other joint injuries, could precipitate the development of OA in those joints, says Dr. Yazici, who presented the study at the 2011 annual congress of the European League Against Rheumatism in London.

Dr. Yazici and his colleagues are now comparing groups of students from two high schools – one who use laptops for classroom notes and homework assignments, the other who takes notes and completes assignments with pencil and paper -- to see if keyboard use might also play a role in joint pain and damage. “We can follow all of these kids by survey,” says Dr. Yazici. “We plan to follow the students to see if there is any long-term impact.”

Playing Videogames

The same study led by Dr. Yazici suggests that excessive playing of videogames may potentially lead to osteoarthritis, particularly in boys. The researchers found that the amount of time children spent playing videogames was independently associated with pain. For each hour they played each day, the odds of wrist and/or finger pain doubled.

As with texting, Dr. Yazici says videogame devices, whose weight and button placement were designed for adult use, may cause damage to developing joint structures in children. “In adults, overuse injuries have been associated with osteoarthritis,” says Dr.  Yazici. “This is another way of overusing the joints."