The habit of cracking knuckles, also known as 'knuckle popping', has been a topic of discussion and curiosity for a long time. Here are answers to some common questions regarding the potential effects of cracking your knuckles.
Is cracking your knuckles harmful?
The act of cracking your knuckles does not appear to have long-term harmful effects on your joints or hand health. Studies have not found a clear association between knuckle cracking and conditions such as arthritis or joint damage. The sound you hear when cracking your knuckles is caused by the release of gas bubbles in the synovial fluid that lubricates your joints.
Can cracking your knuckles lead to arthritis?
The idea that cracking your knuckles causes arthritis is largely a myth. Research has not found a conclusive link between knuckle cracking and the development of arthritis. Arthritis is a complex condition with various causes, including genetics, age, and injury, rather than just knuckle cracking.
Are there any risks or drawbacks to cracking your knuckles?
While cracking your knuckles is generally considered harmless, some people may experience temporary discomfort or swelling after repetitive knuckle cracking. This can be due to over-stretching the ligaments or tendons around the joint or irritating the surrounding tissues. Over time, excessive or forceful knuckle cracking may lead to joint instability or weakened grip strength. People with already very mobile joints (hypermobility) in particular, should avoid pushing their knuckles into extreme positions to crack them as this is likely to lead to further ligamentous laxity and instability.
Although cracking your knuckles has not been shown to increase the risk of arthritis, it is generally recommended to avoid habitual or excessive knuckle cracking to avoid over-stretching the ligaments which maintain joint stability.