Is Cracking Your Knuckles Bad For You? What You Need To Know About Popping Joints

by Ileana Paules-Bronet
Ileana is the Editor of Original Content at LittleThings. She grew up in upstate New York and Oregon and now lives in Queens, NY. Ileana graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in sociology. After graduating, she attended the Columbia Publishing Course in New York City, then worked as in marketing at Oxford University Press. Since transitioning to editorial, she has written for sites like BuzzFeed, HuffPost, and Unwritten. She has also worked for local newspapers and magazines in upstate New York. In her free time, you can find Ileana watching Law and Order: SVU, eating ice cream, and spending time with her dog.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always cracked my knuckles.

And every single time I popped my finger joints, my mom would glare at me and tell me to never do it again.

I always thought that cracking my knuckles was bad for me, but I never stopped doing it.

Recently I wondered yet again, “Is it bad to crack your knuckles?”

Throughout the years, I’ve heard that it causes arthritis, that it can make your knuckles swell up, and even that it’s actually good for you. So what’s the truth? What actually happens when you crack your knuckles?

Even doctors have debated the health of knuckle cracking, but after a variety of studies, they finally have come to a conclusion about whether cracking your knuckles is bad for you or not.

Read on to find out more about what happens when you crack your knuckles!

Thumbnail: Flickr / Wikimedia

Popping Joints

popping joints
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

As you get older, you may notice that your body stops behaving the way it’s supposed to.

Your muscles start to cramp up, your joints start to ache, and you start hearing “popping” sounds every time you stand up and sit down.

Some people are totally freaked out by cracking joints, but for people who crack their knuckles, it’s no big deal.

Cracking Your Knuckles

cracking your knuckles
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

If you’re a knuckle cracker, you probably enjoy feeling the stretch in your fingers before that eventual “pop” sound.

Unfortunately, there’s a good chance you’ve been scolded for cracking your knuckles.

If anyone’s ever told you that popping your knuckles will cause finger problems down the road, you’re in for some good news.

"Don't Do That!"

don't crack knuckles
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

On the other hand, if you hate it when people pop their knuckles around you, you might be the one to scold them.

Many people think the sound of cracking joints is completely sickening — it might send chills up your spine and send you into a rage.

If you listen to the cracking knuckles and scream internally, it might surprise you to find out that doctors have found no adverse effects with cracking knuckles.

What Actually Happens When You Crack Your Knuckles?

what happens when you crack your knuckles?
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

I’m going to get a little medical here, but bear with me.

At your joint, two bones come together and are attached with ligaments.

In order for your fingers to bend, there is a small amount of space between the bones.

When you crack a knuckle, you pull apart the surfaces of the joint, stretching the bones apart, bringing down the pressure in the joint itself.

What's The Sound?

knuckles gas release
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

In your joints, there is fluid that has gases like carbon dioxide, oxygen, and nitrogen, dissolved in it.

When the pressure decreases in the joint, the gas is freed.

The gas bubble that is released creates the loud popping sound that’s so infamous.

It's Like Stretching For Your Fingers

stretching for fingers
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

According to Dr. Boutin, a radiologist at University of California: Davis, cracking your knuckles stretches out your joints.

If you’ve ever noticed that you have more range of motion in your fingers after popping your joints, this is probably why.

Lowering the pressure in your joints allows your fingers to have more flexibility.

Is Cracking Your Knuckles Bad For You?

is cracking your knuckles bad for you?
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

So, to answer the age-old question, no, cracking your knuckles is not bad for you.

University of Alberta’s Dr. Greg Kawchuk explains that cracking your knuckles probably gets such a bad rep because people really hate the noise.

If (like me) your parents always told you to stop popping your joints, it might just be because they’re grossed out by the sound. “It’s bad for you” may just be an old wives’ tale.

Can Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis?

can cracking your knuckles cause arthritis?
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

One of the many myths perpetuated when it comes to cracking knuckles is that it can cause arthritis.

According to Zocdoc, there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that cracking your knuckles causes arthritis or inflammation.

A study done by Dr. Kawchuk and his colleagues says that knuckle cracking doesn’t increase joint degeneration.

Crack Away!

cracking knuckles
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

What this all means is that knuckle crackers should feel free to crack away!

Unfortunately, this also means that people who hate the sound may just have to get used to it.

Do you crack your knuckles? Let us know in the comments below!

If you know any knuckle crackers (or people who hate it), please SHARE this article with them on Facebook!