We’ve all heard that knuckle cracking has a negative effect on our joints and can lead to arthritis. It is a common belief that people hold about the popping sound that some of us make habitually. However, is it actually true that knuckle cracking can lead to serious joint problems?
Anatomy of Finger Joints
The joints in our fingers are called metacarpophalangeal joints and are a type of synovial joint. They are surrounded by different ligaments and blood vessels. This makes them responsible for flexion (the bending of joints), extensions and limited rotation. Between those joints, there is synovial fluid which is a type of thick fluid preventing your bones from brushing against each other, which would otherwise cause severe pain.
The Popping Sound
Where does the popping sound come from then? The reason lies in the synovial fluid. The constant movement of our fingers can lead to a formation of little gas bubbles in the synovial fluid. The forced hyper-flexion, hyper-extension or simple pulling of the the finger away from the head of the joint leads to increase in negative pressure in the joint- causing the infamous ‘pop!’
Can this Cause Arthritis?
Simply put, no. However! This doesn’t mean that knuckle cracking is necessarily good, either. No research has found a correlation between knuckle cracking and heightened risk of arthritis. However, a negative correlation between frequency of knuckle cracking and the grip strength has been found. What it means is that the more you crack your knuckles, the weaker your grip is. It can also lead to hypermobility which may cause joint problems as we get older.
What is the conclusion then? Well, you probably won’t get arthritis from constantly annoying other people by cracking your knuckles; however, you might not escape from other problems which can be caused by this habit. That’s why, you should probably stop doing it as soon as you can.
Grujicic, Roberto. “Metacarpophalangeal (MCP) Joints.” Kenhub, 30 Sept. 2021, www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/metacarpophalangeal-mcp-joints.
https://www.facebook.com/WebMD. “Will Joint Cracking Cause Osteoarthritis?” WebMD, WebMD, 2007, www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/joint-cracking-osteoarthritis.
MD, Arush Patel. “Does Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis?” Arthritis-Health, 13 Apr. 2020, www.arthritis-health.com/blog/does-cracking-your-knuckles-cause-arthritis.
Popov, Andrey. “Knuckle Cracking: Annoying and Harmful, or Just Annoying?” Cloudfront.net, 2022, domf5oio6qrcr.cloudfront.net/medialibrary/10927/ffb2b930-6471-4c2c-9bb4-70488f8c1e8a.jpg.