Cracking Your Knuckles Is Bad For You! – Myth or Fact?

by Vanessa Boon, Physiotherapist



The simple answer is no; but also, yes.

How can cracking not be bad for me?  

For starters, cracking is NOT linked to arthritis. Yes, despite popular beliefs, several studies have shown that the chances of having arthritis are around the same whether or not you crack your joints.

What is going on in my body when I hear a crack?

Escaping gases

The fluid which lubricates your joints contains gases (oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide). When you crack your joint, you stretch the joint capsule and gas is rapidly released. The reason why you cannot crack the same joint over and over again is because the gases have to first return to the fluid. 

Movement of joints, tendons and ligaments

Your tendons move and change positions when your joint moves. Sometimes, if you hear a snapping sound, it could just be your tendon moving back to its original position. Besides your tendons, your ligaments can also create sounds when they tighten as you move your joint. Some of the cracking sounds that you hear in your knee and ankle, could just be your ligaments.

Rough surface

An arthritic joint can also make sounds due the loss of cartilage and when the joint surfaces losses its smoothness.

Concerns other than arthritis – the dark side of cracking

Inflammation and weak grip

Even though cracking your joints may not directly cause arthritis, it can cause inflammation and weaken your joints. There have been studies done that link long-term knuckle cracking with increased levels of inflammation and weaker grip strength which affects the overall health of your joints.

When should I be concerned?

Most cracks and pops are pretty normal and do not need any sort of treatment. They are not particularly linked to any serious chronic health issues. Although, if they are accompanied by pain and swelling it is probably best to seek out a health professional just to get checked up. To book your appointment with one of our Physio’s see below: