January 14, 2019

Is it harmful to crack my knuckles?

Hand, Wrist and Elbow | Neck, Back and Spine


Have you heard that cracking your back or knuckles is bad for you? It’s a common belief that popping your joints, especially knuckles, can lead to arthritis and other joint problems.

However, medical research has yet to find a connection between knuckle cracking and long-term joint problems, but why do some people still say that cracking your joints is bad for you?

OrthoIndy total joint physician, Dr. Troy Roberson, explains the myth behind knuckle cracking.

Is it bad to pop your knuckles all the time?

You’ve probably heard a family member or friend say, “stop cracking your knuckles!” If you’ve ever asked “why,” typically that person could not provide a reason, or you may get a response that “it’s bad for you,” or “you’ll get arthritis.”

“There is no evidence to link cracking joints and knuckles to chronic conditions such as arthritis,” said Dr. Roberson. “This myth may have been started by someone who was annoyed by a person’s constant cracking and saying that it’s bad helps discourage the habit. This situation is similar to the game of telephone. In the way that someone tells another person to stop cracking their knuckles and it keeps getting passed on from person to person who then creates a reason why cracking your knuckles could be harmful, but in reality, there is no evidence.”

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What causes knuckle popping?

Knuckle cracking is produced by increasing the space between finger joints. This causes gas bubbles in the joint fluid to collapse or burst when you crack your knuckles. It’s similar to blowing up a balloon and stretching the walls until the balloon pops. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes for the gas to build back up which explains why you usually can’t pop your knuckles immediately back to back.

Is it bad to pop your joints?

It’s not bad to crack your joints, but there is no evidence suggesting that it’s good for your joints either. “If pain is produced by cracking your joints, then you should avoid it and perhaps seek attention from a medical professional,” said Dr. Roberson.

If cracking your joints isn’t driving your loved ones crazy, don’t worry yourself about doing it too much. Joints can make a variety of popping, grinding and snapping noises, however, if you feel pain or think you have dislocated a joint, visit an OrthoIndy urgent care.

To make an appointment with Dr. Roberson please call 317.802.2477 or learn more about total joint replacement at OrthoIndy.

Schedule an appointment

Your well-being is important to us. Click the button below or call us to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our OrthoIndy Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.

Schedule an Appointment Call OrthoIndy 317.802.2000

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