From biting our nails to chipping our lips, we all have habits that we cannot stop ourselves from doing. These activities can be random – we might do them out of boredom, or we might do them out of stress. 

One such habit is cracking our knuckles. Most of us will find ourselves doing it all the time – and for what reason? No good reason at all. We do it mindlessly; just to hear the cracking sound of it that doesn’t in any way contribute to our day. Sometimes, we all do it when we are in stress. 

Nevertheless, if you are somebody who does it all the time, we are certain you have been told not to do it because of health reasons. People might come and tell you that it may lead to injury or arthritis, or you may even crack your bone. 

Arthritis is the tenderness and swelling of one or multiple joints. The primary symptoms of arthritis are stiffness and joint pain, which can deteriorate with age. It has been speculated that cracking knuckles can cause arthritis. 

Is it true though? Are we actually at risk of an injury or arthritis? Well, let’s find out. 

Does cracking knuckles really harm your joints or cause arthritis? 

There is no medical proof that suggests that cracking your knuckles can cause an injury or arthritis However, there have been certain researches on the subject, but none of them offered a definitive and universal result. 

One research or experiment has been conducted by a doctor, wherein he cracked the knuckles on his left-hand multiple times a day. At the culmination of the experiment, his left-hand knuckles were no different than those on his right hand; neither did he show symptoms or signs of arthritis.

What about the popping sound that the cracking of knuckles makes? 

Now that we know that there is no medical proof that cracking your knuckles can cause injury or arthritis, let’s shift our focus to another debate. You may have heard a cracking or popping sound when you crack your knuckles – only a little is known about it. What causes it? Why do you hear this loud noise? It’s only natural for anyone to wonder. 

Once again, there are a lot of theories. While some believe that the sound is that of nitrogen bubbles that either form or collapse in the joint fluid. Others believe that it is produced from the movement of the ligaments surrounding the knuckle.

In 2015, a few researchers used an MRI while they cracked their knuckles. It was found that a cavity was formed caused by the negative pressure that was created when the joint was pulled apart. Consequently, it was established that the sound was caused by the cavity’s formation. 

In 2018, it was suggested that the sound was caused by the partial collapse of the cavity. Additionally, it was observed that it takes 20 minutes for the cavity to completely collapse for a new cavity to be formed. It might be for this very reason that you’re not able to crack your knuckles again after doing it once. 

Does cracking knuckles have any side effects?

As per the research and experiments, cracking knuckles does not have a side effect. Neither does it cause any pain or discomfort. However, if you are experiencing some degree of pain or discomfort, it is likely because of some underlying issue. In such instances, it is advisable to see a doctor. It may be arthritis, gout, or any other joint issue. 

Should you stop cracking your knuckles? 

As mentioned before, cracking knuckles doesn’t have any side effects, and neither does it cause any harm to your joint. However, knuckle cracking can be annoying for those around you. If you have come across people who complain, and you wish to be done with the habit, here are some tips you can follow. 

  • You may crack your knuckles when you are stressed. Instead of doing it, you can look for other ways to manage your stress – such as deep breathing, meditation, or walks. 
  • If you are cracking your knuckles out of boredom, you may pick some other means to pass your time. Feel free to solve a puzzle, or solve a Rubik’s cube. 
  • You can make use of stress relievers such as a stress ball or a worry stone. 
  • Be conscious and stop yourself every time you find yourself cracking knuckles. 

Bottom line

There have been multiple speculations if cracking knuckles can cause injury or arthritis. However, there has been no conclusive research indicating the same. In case, you are experiencing any pain or discomfort while cracking your knuckles, you should see a doctor as it might be because of an underlying issue. 

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