Here at Greater Life Chiropractic, we love to share knowledge and educate our Charlotte community on a number of different things, and today we’re shedding light on knuckle cracking. If you were told as a kid that cracking your knuckles is bad for you, you’re not alone. Whether your parents cited large knuckles, future arthritis, or some other ailment when encouraging you to stop the habit, many of us grew up being told it wasn’t a good thing to do. But is it really bad for you? Can it really cause other issues? Although the habit may be an annoyance to those around you, is it something you should truly consider stopping if you do it regularly? Before we dive into whether it’s good, bad, or neither, let’s look more closely at what exactly is making that cracking sound.
What Is That Popping Sound?
Between each finger joint is fluid, and within that fluid are several tiny gas bubbles. When you crack your knuckles, either by pulling, pushing, or bending them, what you hear are the gas bubbles popping. The fluid bubbles build up over time, which is why you can’t crack them repeatedly.
You’ve probably heard popping sounds similar to those of your knuckles cracking in other joints throughout your body. When you stand up after sitting for a while, your hips may pop. When you squat down to pick up something off the floor, your knees may pop. Sometimes even stretching your neck, back, or shoulders can result in popping in your spine. While some joint popping is linked to stiffness, many noises don’t have an obvious source. However, medical professionals suspect that popping and cracking sounds from joints may be caused by the above-mentioned gas bubbles in your joint fluid, bones rubbing against each other, or even your tendons sliding against another tissue or bone nearby.
Is the Popping Harmful?
Generally speaking, as long as you don’t have pain, swelling, redness, or other joint issues, these sounds are all completely normal and not concerning, both in your knuckles as well as in other parts of your body. Additionally, when you do crack your knuckles, if it causes pain or discomfort at all, you should stop doing it and get your hands checked out by a doctor. Sometimes, painful joint popping means next to nothing, but other times, it can be an indicator that something is wrong. Especially if you’ve cracked your knuckles for years and never had an issue but are now experiencing discomfort, it would be beneficial to further explore the cause of your pain.
So the good news is that cracking your knuckles is not bad for you and has been found to have no impact whatsoever—positive or negative—on hand health, joint health, arthritis, or anything else.
But as with anything health-related, we encourage you to contact our team at Greater Life Chiropractic if you have more questions about knuckle cracking, other joints popping, or anything else that impacts your health and wellbeing. Dr. Grant Lisetor is a Charlotte chiropractor who, alongside his team, works to enhance and improve the health and quality of life of the entire Charlotte community. Contact Greater Life Chiropractic today to learn more about the countless benefits of principled chiropractic care.
Powers, T., Kelsberg, G., Safranek, S. “Clinical Inquiry: Does Knuckle Popping Lead to Arthritis?” The Journal of Family Practice, 2016 Oct; 65 (10): 725-726. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27846331/