Is Knuckle Cracking Bad?

Functional medicine

Cracking Your Knuckles: Good or Bad?

You may have heard someone say that cracking your knuckles can cause arthritis, but the medical consensus is that it’s neither good nor bad for you. Research has discovered that the cracking sound comes from the rapid development of gas bubbles inside the fluid of your knuckle joint, known as synovial fluid.

There are several reasons that people become habitual knuckle crackers, but the bottom line is that the experience is considered harmless, and the response is mostly psychological. M.D. Donald Ungar famously debunked the theory by cracking the knuckles on his left hand at least twice a day for 50 years, while leaving his right hand out of the fight. Once the score came in, neither hand showed signs of arthritis nor any other apparent differences.

Between all the myths, the popping sound in your knuckles is simply nitrogen bubbles that burst inside the joint fluid of our knuckle joint.

The cracking sound is referred to as crepitus, or crepitation, which is used to describe cracking, popping, crunching, grinding, and any other noises associated with moving joints. We previously discussed crepitus to uncover more about what causes joint cracking.

The same definition is used to describe tendons or ligaments that snap, and when the loss of cartilage causes bones to grind together due to the degenerative effects of arthritis, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

So, while the joint cracking of your knuckles should be harmless, if you experience any pain in your finger joints, knuckle joints, hand swelling, a loss in hand function, or a loss of grip strength, there may be an underlying cause that should be evaluated by a health care professional.

In all the above circumstances, you should strongly consider seeking medical advice to determine the underlying risk factor. Dr Matt le Roux is a highly skilled chiropractor with decades of experience and extensive knowledge of the body’s spine, muscles, joints, bones, and tissues.

If your habitual knuckle cracking has suddenly resulted in pain, or if you have noticed gradual pain, numbness, or dysfunction in your hands, Matt may be able to you help identify the underlying causes through chiropractic care and may be able to set you on your way to recovery.

Simply book an online appointment today and let Matt help you identify what’s really cracking.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can cracking knuckles cause carpal tunnel?

Cracking knuckles has not been proven to cause carpal tunnel syndrome and is not necessarily good or bad for your joints. While knuckle cracking itself may be harmless, if you feel any sudden discomfort or pain then there may be an underlying problem in your knuckle joints, fingers, or hands.

Does cracking knuckles reduce grip strength?

Cracking knuckles has not been proven to reduce grip strength. In fact, the consensus is that knuckle cracking is neither good nor bad for you. If you feel you have lost grip strength in your hand, there may be underlying reasons and you should see your doctor for medical advice.

Is knuckle cracking a sign of anxiety?

People crack their knuckles for a variety of reasons including anxiety, stress relief, and pleasure. Knuckle cracking will not necessarily have adverse effects on your joints, so it may be a relief to know that your anxious habit is not necessarily bad for your knuckle joints.

Why is knuckle cracking addictive?

Knuckle cracking is addictive because people often enjoy the experience and/or the sound. They might also find comfort in the phenomenon. If you experience any pain, there may be a different cause that needs a doctor’s attention.

Can cracking knuckles cause pain?

Cracking your knuckles is generally considered harmless to your knuckle joints. It’s also not necessarily good for your joints, so if you experience any sudden, or even gradual pain, you should consider seeing a doctor for evaluation.



Cedars Sinai

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Aurora Health Care

Scientific American

Business Insider


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Dr. Matt le Roux is a man of many talents: chiropractor, sports scientist and functional medicine practitioner. His science-based approach motivates him to explore the synergy between health and performance that changes the way you move, live, train, think, and eat.

Dr Matt le Roux

Chiropractor, Functional medicine practitioner

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