Cracking Knuckles – the Truth

September 19, 2008


Cracking knuckles has always been a subject of conversation, particularly when my kids were teenagers and were doing it for fun!?!  How many of you grew up with the fear that if you cracked your knuckles you would grow up to have arthritis? That your knuckles would get big and you would lose your strength and grip?  Well, in case you still hold that fear- fear not- there is no proof that any of this is true. My mother told me never to crack my knuckles, but I found that if I didn’t my fingers were tight and uncomfortable, not cracking was not an option, although I do try to massage my joints and stretch them often. I was so relieved to find out that there is no hard evidence to back up my mother’s (and your mother’s) fears. The sound is not something dire occurring to your bones, it is the sound of the release of pressure in the form of C02 inside the fluid sac that cradles your joint. You may have noticed that a person can only crack their knuckles once in awhile. This is because it takes awhile for the C02 to replenish itself in the joint. Arthritis is pain and inflammation of the joint and it it is not a result of joint cracking. What a relief. WikiHow does have a page on how to stop cracking your knuckles along with how to stop biting your nails and pulling your hair! They liken knuckle cracking to dislocating your shoulder, which might lead to soft tissue damage of the joint capsule. If you have lost your grip, or have swollen joints and hands, the cause might be the knuckle cracking. The question is why are you cracking your knuckles in the first place. If it is a nervous habit that you want to change then here is an interesting and thoughtful commentary from someone who also wants to break the habit.


6 Responses to “Cracking Knuckles – the Truth”

  1. What a great post! As a chiropractor I am asked about a trillion times a day if it’s ok to crack knuckles (mostly yes) and if it is the same as me adjusting their spine (sorta, but not identical because of nerve stimulation in the latter).

    I have never read anything about damage due to knuckle cracking, but I do know it can cause neurologic habit patterns that can be distracting and annoying, yes like nail biting.

    If the cause of the feeling like they need to crack is from use like typing , writing, using your hands, then by all means crack ’em. But be careful not to over bend them or twist them. Simply bend them as in gripping or gently pull out on them.

  2. NeedToKnow Says:

    I there any proof that it not bad for you and will not cause any problems?

    • joanspear Says:

      You can do all the research you like, I have never found any evidence anywhere that problems are caused- I am not an expert.

  3. Sadie Says:

    I love this article, because as a teenager who cracks her knuckles, I’ve been trying to convince my mom that it’s not doing anything! I love to write long stories, then finalize them on a laptop, so cracking my knuckles helps relieve the stress on my hands. However, I will admit that it has become a habit to make the motions when I’m nervous, even if they don’t pop. So, I guess it’s just your opinion if it’s worth it.

  4. Alissa Says:

    i love cracking my knuckles but my mom tells me that i’ll have fat fingers – which i definitely don’t want but i still, um, do it. And, yeah, my finger knuckles are a kinda big now so phooey for me. ):

  5. There are three things movies make look cool. Smoking, walking away from explosions, and knuckle cracking. No need to lecture anyone on the effects of smoking. We’ve all heard the stories. No one can calmly walk away from explosions. It’s loud, dangerous, and actually hurts. Knuckle cracking? We’re good! You can make opening a fridge look cool with a quick knuckle crack.

    Love the picture.

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