A review in Swiss medical journal found scientific evidence in none of the available studies that cracking the knuckles causes arthritis.
A doctor even proved this by experimenting on himself. He reported in Arthritis & Rheumatology that, over a period of 50 years, he cracked the knuckles of his left hand two or more times a day, but never on the right. At the end of the experiment, the knuckles on his left hand were no different than those on his right handand neither hand showed signs or symptoms of arthritis.
There is also no good evidence that cracking your knuckles enlarge joints or weaken your grip strength.
Why do people do it?
Studies show that about 54% of people crack their knuckles. They do this for many reasons, including:
- Sound. Some people like to hear the sound that knuckle cracking makes.
- the way it feels . Some people think that cracking your knuckles leaves more room in the jointwhat relieves tension and increases mobility. However, although it may seem like there is more space, there is no evidence that there really is.
- nervousness. Just like wringing your hands or twisting your hair, cracking your knuckles it can be a way to keep your hands busy when you’re nervous.
- Stress. Some people who are stressed they need to get even with something. Knuckle cracking can allow deflection and release without causing damage.
- Habit. Once you start cracking your knuckles for any of these reasons, it’s easy to keep doing it until it happens without even thinking about it. When you find yourself subconsciously cracking your knuckles many times a day, it becomes a habit. People who do it five times a day or more are called regular crackers.
What causes the pop?
The reason why the joint makes a clicking or cracking sound when pulled not yet fully understood. For a long time, many people attributed the noise to the formation or collapse of nitrogen bubbles in the joint fluid. Others thought that was due to movement of the ligaments around the knuckle.
In a 2015 study, researchers looked at the knuckles while they were broken by an MRI. They found that a cavity formed due to the negative pressure created when the joint was rapidly separated. They determined that the sound was produced by the formation of the cavity. However, this could not explain the loudness of the sound.
Another study conducted in 2018 suggested that the sound was actually caused by partial collapse of the cavity. A review of studies noted that it takes 20 minutes for the cavity to fully collapse so that a new cavity can form. This may be why, after you’ve cracked your knuckles, you can’t do it again right away.
Crack your knuckles should not be painful, cause swelling, or change the shape of the joint. If any of these things happen, something else is happening.
Although it is not easy, if you pull hard enough, it is possible. dislodge the finger from the joint or injure the ligaments around the joint.
If you notice that your joints are sore or swollen while you crack your knuckles, it’s likely due to an underlying condition, such as arthritis or gout.
Tips to stop cracking your knuckles
Although cracking your knuckles doesn’t hurt you, but can be distracting or upsetting to people around you. Also, you may find it difficult to stop if it becomes a habit.
Some tips that can help you break the habit:
- Think about why you crack your knuckles and address any underlying issues.
- Find another way to relieve stress, such as deep breathing, exercise, or meditation.
- Busy your hands with other stress relievers, like squeezing a stress ball or rubbing a worry stone.
- Be aware of each time you crack your knuckles and consciously stop.
- Wear a rubber band around your wrist and tighten it when you’re about to crack your knuckles.
When to see a doctor
Cracking your knuckles does no damage, so shouldn’t be painful, cause swelling or change the shape of the joint. These are signs that something is wrong and should be evaluated by your doctor.
Injuring your finger by pulling too hard or moving it in the wrong direction is often very painful. Your finger may look crooked or begin to swell. If this happens, you should see your doctor right away.
If you notice that your joints are painful or swollen while cracking your knuckles, it is likely due to an underlying condition and should be evaluated by your doctor.