Does cracking knuckles damage joints?

Why do people crack their knuckles?

Some people use knuckle cracking as a way to ease nervous tension or anxiety. Others just love the sensation and a feeling of more flexibility after the “pop”.

Whatever the reason may be, somewhere between 25% – 54% of people crack their knuckles habitually. But does this cause any harm in the long run?

What is the popping sound of knuckles cracking?

Scientists have dispelled the myth that the sound is bones breaking.

What happens is, when the joint is pulled apart, bubbles fill up the joint space. The pop sound occurs when the bubbles suddenly collapse.1

Similar to when a balloon is blown up until it bursts.

Is knuckle cracking harmful?

This is a FAQ for physiotherapists and doctors. Thankfully knuckle cracking has been the subject of scientific research for many years. Here is what we know so far.

  • Cracking knuckles did not cause any immediate harmful side effects. 2
  • Knuckle crackers did not have more athritis in hands compared to non-crackers. 3
  • Long term knuckle crackers (we are talking decades here) did not appear to show any damage on XRAYS. 4

Conclusion

Cracking knuckles doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure after all. It’s unlikely that cracking knuckles causes any damage to the hands.