Does Cracking Knuckles Cause Harm?

By Dr. Ravin Sodhi, D.C.

PUBLISHED ON July 20, 2022

People crack their knuckles for many reasons—anxiety, restlessness, or just pure pleasure. Habitual knuckle crackers report feeling a sense of relief in the joints after cracking their knuckles. While there’s a long list of superstitions and myths about knuckle cracking, does cracking knuckles cause harm?

The short answer is no. Let’s discuss knuckle cracking, how it happens, whether it causes arthritis and the effects of this common behaviour.

Does Cracking Your Fingers Give You Arthritis?

No definitive scientific evidence proves that cracking your fingers leads to arthritis. However, it may cause temporary swelling or a feeling of weakness in the hands. If you develop any pain or joint swelling, it’s best to consult your doctor as soon as possible.

Cracking accompanied by pain suggests underlying abnormalities of the joint structures, such as injured ligaments or loose cartilage.

What Happens When You Crack Your Knuckles?

The cracking or popping sound you hear when cracking your knuckles comes from nitrogen bubbles in your synovial fluid. Synovial fluid lies between the joints in your fingers, acting like a lubricant that allows your fingers to move in different directions without causing pain. Cracking your knuckles builds up negative pressure that causes the bubbles to burst.

Your joints may also produce a popping sound from the movement of ligaments around the joint.

What Happens If You Crack Your Knuckles Too Much?

Does cracking knuckles cause harm? Research suggests that chronic knuckle cracking may result in:

  • Weaker grip strength
  • More swelling in the hands
  • Risk of injuries such as ligament injury

However, most research studies on knuckle cracking tend to involve very small samples and compare knuckle crackers and non-crackers at a single time. Researchers can draw more evident conclusions with extensive studies that measure the effect of knuckle cracking over time.

How To Stop Cracking Knuckles

Even if cracking knuckles has no known detrimental effects, there’s still good reason to stop the habit. Breaking this nervous habit may seem challenging, but you can do it. The following tips may help you control a knuckle-cracking habit:

  • Keep your hands busy with other stress relievers
  • Find different ways to relieve stress, such as meditation, stretching, deep breathing, or exercise
  • Understand why you crack your joints and address any underlying issues
  • Be aware of when you’re cracking your knuckles and try to stop yourself each time you feel like doing it

Contact Active Life Wellness Center in Brampton, ON

According to various research findings, cracking your knuckles isn’t harmful. It doesn’t cause arthritis or damage to your joints. It may seem loud or distracting to people around you, but you have no reason to worry about the adverse effects of knuckle cracking.

You can now answer the question, “does cracking knuckles cause harm?” And since cracking knuckles doesn’t cause harm, ensure you see a doctor if you feel pain or notice anything wrong with your joints.

Active Live Wellness Center can help with all your chiropractic needs in Brampton. Call us today at (905) 458-6677 to book an appointment.

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