Knuckle Cracking

I'm not a knuckle cracker myself. In fact, I hate it when people crack their knuckles. And I've frequently told people that cracking their knuckles would cause arthritis. After all, that's what everyone says. But according to this NY Times article (republished in the Arizona Republic) it's not true. It's an urban legend.
Just reading this description of what causes knuckles to crack makes me cringe:
The loud pop of a cracked knuckle is caused by synovial fluid, the thick lubricant that surrounds every joint. When the fingers are stretched or bent backward, the bones of the joint pull apart. This creates bubbles of air in the fluid, which subsequently burst.
But as for the evidence that knuckle cracking doesn't cause arthritis, the article cites a 1990 study:
The largest study to explore a link to arthritis was published in 1990 in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. It looked at 300 healthy people older than 45, 74 of them habitual knuckle crackers. The rates of arthritis of the hand were similar in both groups, though the knuckle crackers, on average, had reduced grip strength.
Still, I think I might keep telling people who are cracking their knuckles that it's going to give them arthritis, just to annoy them and maybe scare them into stopping.

Body Manipulation Health/Medicine Urban Legends

Posted on Tue Feb 01, 2005


Someone told me a few years ago that it doesn't cause arthritis any more than not cracking your knuckles...and I think I have cracked my own every now & again...but I tell my sister it will make her knuckles big. She's one of those incessant crackers. One after another all the time.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Wed Feb 02, 2005  at  07:41 AM
Bubbles of air in a liquid can't burst (the only time I've seen that happen is in animated cartoons). Think about it. Whoever wrote that they did shouldn't be writing on a subject he is so clearly ignorant of.

The bubbles can disappear because the gas dissolves in the liquid; but there won't be a pop.
Posted by Lord Lucan  on  Wed Feb 02, 2005  at  09:23 AM
It's a pop because the air is being pushed out of a tiny space. Think bubble wrap.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Wed Feb 02, 2005  at  10:40 AM
about 20 y. ago I saw X-ray picture in some popular magazine where scientist captured these bubbles.
The nature of this bubbles similar to bubbles in soda or mineral water, by bending you create low pressure and liquid start to "boil".
Posted by Loxx  on  Wed Feb 02, 2005  at  01:42 PM
Sorry, but if I don't crack my knuckles occasionally, they begin to ache. It's not an intense pain, but it's a noticeable level of discomfort. Cracking instantly relieves it.

Also goes for my spine; I have to crack them over a chair back every so often or it starts to ache.
Posted by Barghest  on  Wed Feb 02, 2005  at  10:36 PM
I'm with Barghest, even though it is annoying when people do it a lot. (Pause to crack. Eeep.)

My back, however, I have to get help with.
Posted by James D  on  Thu Feb 03, 2005  at  08:20 PM
Lord Lucan's stupidity is amazing.
Posted by T  on  Fri Feb 04, 2005  at  06:38 AM
Anyway, as to the ache in the knuckles if they don't get cracked: I have the same problem, but what I found out when I tried exceptionally hard to stop was that the ache only lasted a few weeks-then went away completely! I don't crack my knuckles near as much as I used to and mostly only on accident, now. (as in when they crack themselves)

T...sticks and nice.
Posted by thephrog  on  Fri Feb 04, 2005  at  07:56 AM
Grip Strength: A study showed that knuckle poppers have reduced grip strength. However, that is not a CAUSAL relationship. Some people can't pop their kunckles. It could be that something that makes your knuckles pop also reduces your grip strength.

I pop over 50 seperate joints in my body, including knees and hips.
Posted by Rich  on  Wed Mar 02, 2005  at  12:20 PM
Rich... wow, that's impressive. I can pop neck, back, fingers, toes, ankles, elbows, and wrists. And I also find that I start to ache if I don't crack my joints. My best friend constantly tells me that she'll laugh at me when I'm 80 and swollen like a balloon from arthritus, it'll be a relief to be able to tell her that knuckle-cracking doesn't cause arthritis.
Posted by Dyrim  on  Thu Mar 24, 2005  at  02:14 AM

I have been getting pain in my left index finger at the knuckle, and found that I actually NEED to crack it several times a day to keep it from hurting. Cracking it actually relieves it...what could cause such a thing?

Posted by Barbara  in  Ventura California  on  Sat May 07, 2005  at  01:39 AM
i crack my fingers all the time, and sumtimes i really push on them to make em crack, and have started getting pains in my hand, and less flexibilty, i would say bugger science, they say a bee cant fly but it does, so i tell u al lto b careful, i will try to stop!!!
Posted by garret  in  england  on  Thu May 26, 2005  at  05:26 AM
during the day i crack my hand and when i do it starts to ache very much does it mean that my hands are going to get fatter than other people"s hands?
Posted by booi45  in  5605 san vincente north highlands,ca,95660  on  Sat Jun 11, 2005  at  03:26 PM
when i crack my knuckles my fingers start to lose flexibility does that mean that i broke one of my bones?
Posted by boo23  in  5605 san vincente north highlands,ca,95660  on  Sat Jun 11, 2005  at  03:32 PM
well i love cracking my bones, neck knees fingers,ankles and especially my back. i love the feeling of having my back cracked and love cracking other peoples backs. (im starting to sound weird now arnt i!) but i think it is true if u stop doing it for a couple of weeks the ache to do it goes away.
Posted by faye  in  england  on  Thu Jun 30, 2005  at  04:42 AM
Well if you don't like cracking nuckles or any bones, I recommend you not see a chiropractor. Their in the bussiness of of cracking joints in order to reallign them, I think that makes perfect sense and asnwers everyones annoying question on nuckle cracking.
Posted by Random Dude  on  Fri Jul 08, 2005  at  03:10 AM
I'm a bit of a knuckle cracker - I'm a violinist and need flexibility in my fingers, and I find that they can sometimes be very stiff - cracking them helps that flexibility. So I get reduced grip strength? If you use one of those grip things (the little hand excercise that increases grip strength) this shouldn't be a problem.
Posted by Ben  in  Perth, WA, Australia  on  Tue Aug 30, 2005  at  08:20 PM
Actually, my cousin pushed me into popping them. Then it turned into a bad habit. My family tells me not to do it, but I ignored them becuase it's hard to stop. I have to pop them often or they ache like crazy. I wouldn't be able to stand a couple of weeks of constant aching. And sometimes I do it on accident. I even pop my toes, one of my shoulders, back, and knees. Mostly my knuckles. IT really bugs people, but I can't help it. And I noticed a lot more people do it now. In all of my classes, not including me, pop their knuckles. It's insane, I can't complain, becuase I am a bad knuckle popper, bad me. I've been doin it for at least 5 years now. It did make my knuckles have a bumpy feeling to them however. And slighty bigger. So if anyone wants to tell me if they've done it longer, I'd like to know how theirs look Thanks.
Posted by Angelica  in  Arizona  on  Fri Oct 14, 2005  at  11:22 PM
I have kracked my knuckles since I was 10 and I am now 35. I don't have arthritis nor have they gotten bigger.
Posted by danielle  on  Fri Nov 04, 2005  at  02:11 PM
i crack the end of my penis sometimes across the back of my sholder it helps a lot with pain relief and dicomfort in my testicles
Posted by greg  in  new zealand  on  Mon Nov 07, 2005  at  12:34 AM
i crack my knuckles all the time and i was talking to my friend the other night and we were both noticing that our knuckles have gotten a litle larger it doesnt stop me from doing it though
Posted by laura  on  Sun Dec 11, 2005  at  02:01 PM
does anyone have any methods they would like to share about how to crack their back?? My back gets sore from sitting at my desk all day, and all i want to do is crack it...
Posted by mark  in  california  on  Thu Dec 22, 2005  at  03:25 PM

Well try to improvise. push your back against back rest of your chair. but make sure your back rest is sturdy enough. and make sure your chair isn't the kind that moves.

I am fortunate enough to be double jointed and flexible. So I put my left arm behind my back, then I grab my right arm with my left hand. I then push forward my right arm and my left arm into my back. Boy does it feel gooooood!

you could probably do it without being double jointed but I wouldn't gurantee it.

Or maybe just have a co-worker pop it for you. Who cares if it's not professional. Just say your doc reccommends it.

Good luck.
Posted by Truman  on  Thu Dec 22, 2005  at  05:41 PM
Oh, and the bubble thing IS completely true.
Posted by Truman  on  Thu Dec 22, 2005  at  05:43 PM
Hello to all

I crack my finges but that isnt my worst habit, my worst is biting my nails. I've bitten them down so much it is hurting to type this.
I crack my knuckles because im a guitarist and a pianist and if i dont then i cant play properly. its something i have to do. i recently stopped cracking my toe though because ive done it so much that last week it dislocated and is now very painful. Doesnt put me off though.

Love to all
Posted by Beth  in  My Front Room - Blackpool  on  Thu Dec 29, 2005  at  12:35 PM
so ive been poping my fingers,feet,wrist,neck,back,and thumbs since 4th grade. yeah sometime i have this pain in my fingers and craking them relieve the pain;weird i guess.anyway i find this site wndering if i would hav artharitis. i use this ability as a advantage on people as a weapon.(two words...muhahahahahahahahahahahahah...yeah.)
Posted by w27  in  mesa, arizona  on  Fri Dec 30, 2005  at  07:27 PM
I can crack almost every single joint on my body. Actually, I can't think of one I cannot crack. I don't crack knees and shoulders, because these joints freak me out (I happen to know a little about anatomy), but I could if I wanted to. I can crack my sternum (I don't). I can crack my illium, and ichium (I do all the time), and tailbone, and little falangas at the tips of my fingers and toes, and the joints of my neck all the way up inside my skull. The rest of the spine is a joke. Elbows and arms are a joke. Knuckles? I don't even notice when I do it; at this point, there are specific anatomous circuits in my brain devoted to cracking behavior, like for breathing and hearbeat. I've been doing it for at least nine years. Maybe a couple years more. (No, my joints are not huge, just a little bigger and more transparent than normal.)

And let me tell you this guys: just like with alcohol and smoking, they will discover in time that this is an addictive and harmful behavior. It destabilizes your joints and makes a potential injury worse (doesn't mean you'll get an injury, but when you do, it will be very bad). Also, if you crack your neck (like I do quite often), it may cause problems with circulation and result in head aches (there were few people who had strokes as a result of an "adjustment" in chiropracter's office).

So, although it is not harmful in the short term, or if you do it only occasionally (like smoking and drinking), it is harmful if it becomes addictive. How do you know it's become addictive? If it hurts so much you cannot stop doing it. Your joints become less stables, so muscles around them tighten and spasm to keep them more stable. You feel discomfort, stretch the muscles and crack the joints, making them more unstable, making muscles spasm more, etc.

So, as for me, I am trying to stop and cut down on cracking joints. *Crack*... aaah... damn it...

Oh, by the way... chiropracters are such a bunch of phoneys. They are not even real doctors to begin with, so they are worse than psychiatrists. If you have back problems, seek out a real doctor, a neurologist or an orthoepedic (sp?).
Posted by AVF  in  Boston, MA  on  Mon Jan 16, 2006  at  02:50 AM
heyy i think kucle cracking is amazing .... i crack my nuckles at least 7-8 times a day and it feels better and better every time..its like ten times wrost than cocain...... ive tried to stop so many times they should have like a nucekl cracking rehab program...
Posted by frankie  in  stoneham ma  on  Wed Jan 18, 2006  at  08:08 PM
heyy everyone. im doing a speech on cracking things and ive been cracking my knuckles for about 4 years and ive also been cracking my back lately and its beforning my body. lol. help.
Posted by Mariah  in  Canada  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  07:42 PM
Hello everyone! So i need some help, i have been popping my back and neck for a very long time. Now i am haveing very painfull problems with lower abck and stiffness with my neck. If anyone has anything that would help then notify me at (email adress)
courtney smile
Posted by courtney  in  parkville  on  Tue Jan 31, 2006  at  07:05 AM
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