I will tell y’all what. I snap, crackle and pop my knuckers all the time. I always got told as a kid “Crystal, that is so bad for your fingers!” or “Crys, that is going to give you arthritis!”, so I did get out of the habit for a while, but now-a-days I do it whenever I feel nervous or bored, without much worry of the consequences. But, are there even any consequences to be worried about? Are these concerns just myths? Or will we all be suffering from severe arthritis in 20 years because we couldn’t help but be obnoxious kids who thought it was cool to pop our knuckles along to the beat of “Boom Boom Pow“?
Let’s first be clear on what it means to “crack your knuckles” with this explanation from Dr. Dimitrios Pappas:
“Joints (knuckles) are covered by a capsule (the joint capsule or synovial capsule). Within the space of this capsule the synovial fluid is contained which acts as a lubricant and also contains nutrients for the adjacent bone surfaces. A variety of gases are continuously dissolved in this fluid. When one cracks a knuckle, the stretching of the capsule lowers the pressure inside the joint and creates a vacuum which is filled by the gas previously dissolved in the synovial fluid. This creates a “bubble” which then bursts producing the characteristic “popping” or “cracking” sound. It takes a while until these gases are re-dissolved in the synovial fluid which explains why knuckles cannot be “re-cracked” immediately.”
Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine
Huh!? Interesting, huh? I am a bit of a dork so I found this extremely satisfying knowledge to absorb. Now let’s get some answers as to how it affects our health:
Will cracking my knuckles cause arthritis?
Multiple doctors have answered with the following answers:
“To date, research has not shown a correlation between knuckle cracking and osteoarthritis in your hands.” – Dr. Mercola
“This tends to be a relatively harmless habit, and studies have not found evidence that knuckle crackers are more likely to develop arthritis.” Dr. Wright
“We found that there was no immediate disability in the knuckle crackers in our study, although further research will need to be done to assess any long-term hazard – or benefit – of knuckle cracking,” Dr. Boutin
So, I can crack my knuckles as much as I want?
Well, there aren’t any proven studies that suggest that there are any negative effects in the short or long-term, so why not? Check out what Dr. Behr says regarding the issue:
“There are no definitive links between knuckle cracking and arthritis or any other medical condition. Some studies imply knuckle cracking may lead to some hand swelling and weakness later in life, but again, there are no studies that prove this direct connection.”
Source: Piedmont Healthcare
There are no actual benefits to knuckle popping besides the temporary relief, but hey, if it isn’t causing you any problems, then go for it!
So why do we even do it?
Good question. Here are two similar explanations I found to be quite accurate:
“Sometimes kids may do this because they like the sound it makes, or because it makes their joints feel better. Some may do it when they are nervous or bored,” said Suzanne Wright, M.D., Marshfield Center pediatrician.
“Cracked knuckles feel looser and enjoy more mobility for a while after cracking. It is also possible that as kids people realize that cracking knuckles produces a funny noise and may repeat cracking just to produce the sound. This may make some people habitual “knuckle crackers”. – Johns Hopkins Center
I know that this is definitely true in my case. I first started doing it in elementary school because it was what the cool kids were doing. The teachers snapped at us for popping and we would get into trouble, but we still thought we were so cool. Kinda like this kid:
Ah, Good times. *sigh* If only I had actually been a cool kid in grade school. You could literally sum up my experience with this GIF:
True story actually. Many times. Whether it was in dodge ball or in Tennis class when I was partnered up with the most popular girl in school and the tennis ball she served to me hit me hard in the face and made my nose bleed. I swear, all I was missing were some broken glasses and some high waters. (Wait, I think I did have high waters on. Ugh.)
Okay, well enough about me. It seems that knuckle popping isn’t as harmful as we thought. What do you think about people who pop their knuckles? Do you do it yourself? Also, tell me your embarrassing stories in school. I am curious. 🙂