Cracking Your Knuckles


I have this bad habit of cracking my knuckles. I find myself cracking my knuckles every once in a while when I am in class or doing work. I have always heard that if I keep cracking them I am going to get Arthritis and that my joints are going to swell up. Well, I was wondering if there was any truth to this and when I saw an article about it on bbc, I had to take a look at it.

So the noise we all hear is caused when "the space between the joints increases, causing the gases dissolved in the synovial fluid bathing the joint to form microscopic bubbles. These bubbles merge into large bubbles which then get popped by additional fluid which rushes in to fill the enlarged space." When you think about it though it would make sense that the joints in your fingers would degrade over time. However, very few studies actually show that knuckle cracking is the direct cause of Arthritis.

One study in 1990 in Detroit took three hundred people over the age of 45 and looked to see if there was any correlation between knuckle cracking and grip strength. It found that people who crack their knuckles had weaker grips than those who do not, as well as having 84% more swelling in their hands. But, as the article points out, the swelling could have been pre-existing, and the subjects might have started cracking their knuckles because of it.

Another study, done by California doctor Donald Unger, showed no signs of Arthritis development after sixty years of cracking the knuckles in his left hand twice a day, everyday. So I guess we can take away from this that cracking your knuckles is probably not a good thing, but maybe not a bad thing either.


It's so relieving to read this article! I do nothing all day but crack my knuckles. Especially when I'm bored, you can only check your phone so much. Before finding out more about this topic I always felt bad or a bit worried when I did, since the topic of arthritis always came about. Knowing arthritis isn't a factor with cracking your knuckles I may or may not do it more now.

I'm sure that there is some sort of correlation between cracking your knuckles and arthritis. I'm not so quick to believe your argument because I don't think the experiment you cited used a wide enough subject pool. You mentioned that the article only used 300 people (in terms of an experiment this is not a lot). Additionally, It was unclear whether or not the confounding variables (previous swelling) were recorded or not before the experiment began. To make this experiment more legitimate, the researcher should have used a longitudinal study . This way, the researcher could have selected participants that had no issues and set a control group and a "X variable" group.

I, like you also crack my knuckles, but I only crack them when I am upset. For me it is a way to take out stress instead of yelling, it is like astress relief. While it may not be the best way to relieve stress it is my personal method. I actually stopped cracking my knuckles for may years, specifically during my high school career. I try no to be a very stressful person, so that may be why. I personally think that cracking your knuckles is not good for you. I think that if there is a possibility that cracking your knuckles leads to Arthritis then I personally would try to prevent that from happening as much as I possibly could. I think that overall it is an easy habit that can be stopped because there is no addicting quality to it, so stopping would be easier and would increase you not having Arthritis. Overall I hope that awareness is spread around and the habit may stop so that less Arthritis drugs need to be made.

Carolyn, you make a really good point about the few experiments that I found. I have been trying to find broader studies that have been done but it does not seem like there have been that many. This is surprising because I feel like it is an extremely common thing. The most compelling experiment I found was definitely the one done be Dr. Unger, who used his right hand as the control and cracked his left hand for 60 years. The results he has found show no signs of Arthritis, however it could depend on the person. He also did win the nobel prize for it. But I think it is hard to say whether or not cracking your knuckles does cause Arthritis and I hope to see bigger studies in the future.

The short answer to the question of whether knuckle cracking is bad for you or not is no. But what happens if we do it regularly for years-- could it hurt us then? The myth of the knuckle cracking damage comes from the sound that it makes. It is interesting to notice that after we crack a knuckle for the first time, we won't be able to do it again for the next 30 minutes. A lot of studies have showing that cracking knuckles do not lead to arthritis, but there is a relationship between knuckle-cracking and hand swelling, and the loss of grip strength. This is actually a result of rapid, repeated stretching of ligaments. Check out this article to read more about the study.

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