Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is cracking your knuckles bad for your bones?"
I crack my knuckles and fingers a lot and just wondered if it is bad for you. What is actually making the cracking sound?
People usually associate knuckle-cracking with arthritis because it makes a cracking sound and, if something cracks, it's probably being damaged. However, the truth is that there is no scientific evidence that cracking your knuckles leads to arthritis or any serious damage to your bones. Nevertheless, there have been a few studies that have shown a possible association between repetitive knuckle-cracking and minor but insignificant damage to ligaments surrounding the joints and dislocation of tendons that may lead to a weak grip and a swelling hand. A joint is where your two bones meet and are held together by connecting tissues and ligaments. There is synovial fluid (made mostly of oxygen, carbon dioxide and some nitrogen) found between your bones. This fluid is a lubricant for your bones and serves as source of nutrients for the cells. What makes the cracking sound is not known, but a possible explanation is that when the compressed gas within the joints is rapidly released as you crack your joints and stretch the joint capsule far enough, the pressure in the capsule drops so low that these bubbles burst, producing the pop that we associate with knuckle cracking. If you have concerns or are feeling pain when your joints pop, you should seek help from your primary care provider.
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