Fact Checked

Is Cracking Your Knuckles Bad For You?

Cracking Your Knuckles

Cracking Your Knuckles - (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

30-Second-Summary

There are a lot of false perceptions having to do with the act of cracking one’s knuckles. It’s an often-misunderstood habit, so in the following article, we will be discussing:

  • Why people crack their knuckles
  • Where the sound of knuckle cracking or popping comes from
  • What the side effects might be if you constantly crack your knuckles
  • Does cracking knuckles cause arthritis
  • What some of the long-term effects of knuckle cracking maybe
  • Some of the most common causes of arthritis
  • Some of the most frequently asked questions about knuckle cracking
  • Whether or not knuckle cracking is bad

An Overview of Knuckle Cracking

It is estimated that more than half the world’s population crack their knuckles. The habit can be conscious, or people can do it absentmindedly. Because of the sound it makes, it is easy to just assume that cracking your knuckles is bad for you.

However, that may not be the case. The fact is that most people who crack their knuckles don’t understand what they are doing. It is a strange habit that people seem to frequently misunderstand.

Cracking your knuckles may not be physically harmful to you, but it may annoy people around you. Some people find the sound repellent, and others don’t like the sight of it. It’s a habit that usually originates from childhood but can stick with a person their entire life.

But is cracking knuckles bad for you? Read on to find out.

What Causes the Cracking Sound?

This is one of the most interesting aspects of knuckle cracking because most people would never guess what causes the cracking sound. Around all of your knuckles is something called synovial fluid. The synovial fluid is very important to the knuckles.

It serves to lubricate the joints and provides nutrients that the joints need. The synovial fluid surrounds all the joints in your body – not just your knuckles. It also helps to dissolve gasses, including nitrogen.

When you crack your knuckles, you are stretching the area where the synovial fluid is. This creates a negative pressure in the space, which allows the gas to seep in. The cracking sound you hear is a tiny pocket of gas from the synovial fluid bursting.

Cracking Knuckles

What You Should Know About Cracking Knuckles

Is cracking your knuckles bad for you? There isn’t a clear “yes” or “no” answer to this question because it depends on the circumstances. In general, though, cracking your knuckles is considered mostly harmless.

The popping of the gas bubble caused by knuckle cracking does not seem to have any negative health effects. It may not necessarily be good for you, but it probably won’t cause any harm or damage to the joints.

That being said, there are instances in which cracking your knuckles can be bad for you. Cracking your knuckles shouldn’t cause any pain. If you are experiencing pain when you do it, it typically means that there is something wrong with the joint.

When your ligaments are damaged, it can be painful when you crack your knuckles. Painful knuckle cracking could also be the result of loose cartilage. It should generally be harmless, but cracking knuckles is bad when it causes pain.

Some studies have noted that chronic knuckle cracking can change the shape of the joint, as well, which is usually associated with some types of complications in the joints. If you do feel pain when you crack your knuckles, it could also be indicative of swollen ligaments.

The takeaway from all of this is that cracking your knuckles is generally not harmful. Again, it provides no health benefits, but it won’t cause any harm in general either.

Cracking Knuckles and Arthritis

Now onto a question that many people have about cracking your knuckles: does cracking knuckles cause arthritis? It’s easy to see why people think that cracking your knuckles causes arthritis. The sound can be abrasive. It can sound like you are doing real damage to your hands every time you do it.

However, there has been no definitive link between the development of arthritis and cracking your knuckles. At least one has not been found yet. It would appear that cracking your knuckles is not one of the causes of arthritis.

Arthritis Myth

Image credit – livealittlelonger.com

Several studies have compared the joint health of people who crack their knuckles and people who don’t. Most of them have found no difference in the joint health of the people who crack their knuckles habitually and people who don’t.

It should be mentioned, though, that some of these studies weren’t long-term. As of the time of this writing, there was no definitive evidence linking the development of arthritis to cracking your knuckles. So does cracking knuckles cause arthritis? Probably not.

Commonly Asked Questions About Cracking Your Knuckles

There is no definitive answer to this question either. If you ask different knuckle crackers why they do it, you are likely to get varying answers. However, many people say that their joints feel looser and more mobile after cracking the knuckles. There could be some science behind this. Still, a lot of people crack their knuckles because they find the sound to be satisfying. Others say that their joints just feel better after they crack their knuckles. Many people become lifelong knuckle crackers starting from childhood. They may have found the sound funny and it simply turned into a habit.

The sound you hear when cracking your knuckles isn’t a sound at all. It’s a small bubble of gas that bursts when the joint is being stretched. The sound of knuckles cracking can differ widely as well. It can sound like a dull pop or a sharper cracking.

Up to this point, there have been no side effects to knuckles cracking found. However, you may experience side effects when there is an underlying joint issue. For example, if you have a damaged tendon or loose ligaments, cracking your knuckles can be painful. After a while, the knuckle can begin to swell. Chronic knuckle cracking may also lead to misshapen joints in rare instances.

No. The effects of knuckle cracking do not differ between children and adults. The effect is the same whether you are a child or adult – causing small amounts of gas in the joints to burst. Therefore, there is no difference in effect whether you do it when you are a child and when you are an adult.

There are 2 major types of arthritis. The causes of each are different. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of the condition. It is caused by general wear and tear and age. Osteoarthritis occurs when the lubrication between the joints, called cartilage, breaks down over time. This can cause painful rubbing of bone on bone. Rheumatoid arthritis is the other kind of arthritis. The cause of Rheumatoid arthritis is the immune system inflaming the synovial fluid in the joints. This inflammation can cause pain and eventually destroy the cartilage.

There has been no definitive link between cracking your knuckles and arthritis. That said, you should also be aware that there has not been a ton of research done on the possible link between arthritis and cracking your knuckles. In studies that have been done, enough evidence was found to support the idea that cracking your knuckles does not cause arthritis to settle the question.

There has also been no link found between cracking your knuckles while you have arthritis and a worsening of the condition. However, if your joints have been weakened or damaged by arthritis, cracking your knuckles can lead to injuries. When the joints have been weakened or damaged by arthritis, almost anything can increase the risk of ligament damage. So, it’s not so much a damnation of cracking your knuckles as it is a general warning that you should be extra careful if your joints have been compromised due to some form of arthritis.

knuckle cracking make it worse

Some Closing Thoughts

Are knuckles cracking bad or good? Neither. Doing it will not cause arthritis or any other type of injury or condition. So it’s not necessarily bad. It isn’t good either. It doesn’t provide any health benefits. However, it can become an unconscious habit or nervous reaction.

While it may not harm your joints, it may become sort of a mental crutch. You should be mindful of all your habits, good or bad. Cracking your knuckles may inadvertently annoy the people around you as well.

It’s just a good practice to be mindful of your habits and how they may affect the people around you. We hope we have answered your questions about knuckle cracking and given you more insight into the topic.

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