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You Asked: Does Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Joint Damage?

Dear Fit,
I have to admit that I love cracking my knuckles, but my gramma always says that I'm ruining my joints and I'll get arthritis when I'm older. Is she right?
—Cracky Kathy

This is a great question and you are not alone in the love of cracking your knuckles. In order to answer your question, let me explain what's happening when your joints crack. A joint is an area where two or more bones meet. This area is surrounded by joint fluid that protects the bones from rubbing against each other. The gas nitrogen is dissolved in your joint fluid. When you crack or pop your knuckles, you're releasing pressure, which makes the gas come out and form a bubble. Don't worry — the sound is not your bones grinding together. That release of pressure allows a temporary increase in the joint's range of motion, which is why it feels so good. The reason you can't recrack your knuckles immediately after is because it takes a little time for the gas to get redissolved back into the joint fluid.

So is it bad for your joints? To find out


It is sweet of your gramma to be concerned about your joints, but let me assure you that there is no evidence that cracking your joints causes arthritis or any other permanent damage — it just offers relief. The only thing you need to be careful of is if cracking your knuckles causes pain. Actually, those who like to crack their knuckles, back, neck, and knees tend to have healthier joints. No it's not the knuckle cracking that's preventing arthritis, it's the fact that they tend to be more active people. As the old saying goes "move it or lose it."

So the next time you crack your knuckles and your gram says "Stop! You're going to get arthritis!" just smile and politely explain that you're releasing the pressure of your joint fluid.

Join The Conversation
bluebird bluebird 9 years
My biology teacher told me this in high school, but nobody ever believed me! I love cracking my knuckles and my toes. They feel all nice and stretched out afterward. : )
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
I hate when people do this.
Hootie Hootie 9 years
I crack my toes all the time! Never my neck or back! Ouch!
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 9 years
Known it all along. It's just annoying and not damaging.
Deadly-Lemur Deadly-Lemur 9 years
Animatedpunk, I have several places that I can crack repeatedly and on demand. I've met other people who can do this, too. I don't think it's different than the regular cracking, we might just have body parts that are more capable of it. ChickPee, my sterum pops sometimes, but not often. I have to be pretty tense all over and start there to make it pop. I wish I could do it more, it does feel great.
srlandsberg srlandsberg 9 years
I have had 2 neck surgeries and I USED TO crack like crazy. For YEARS!!!! I am SOSOSOSO sorry I ever did that. You will NEVER see me crack my neck again. BE VERY CAREFUL. Its not worth it. Its really a habit that can be broken. Your mothers are right.
carhornsinapril carhornsinapril 9 years
ChickPee, YES. it is the absolute best feeling when my sternum pops. my fiance laughs at me, because i always go "AHH! i love when that happens!" afterward.
yamagrl yamagrl 9 years
I don't crack my knuckles, but I like to crack my ankles once in awhile. I had always believed it causes arthritis, so this is good to know!
Spectra Spectra 9 years
I crack my knuckles, my ankles, my hips, my knees, my wrists, you name it, lol. I've never thought that it would cause arthritis...I guess I always kind of knew that was an urban legend. I have lots of double jointed joints too...every time I pop them "out", it creeps my husband out.
Xandara Xandara 9 years
I wanna know how you STOP cracking your knuckles, or other joints, out of habit. Cos as much as I try not to, if that pressure builds up, you just gotta crack 'em!! :/
ChickPee ChickPee 9 years
I think I can crack every joint in my body... and even some non-joints. My STERNUM pops. Anyone else have that issue?
LeLeBabii5 LeLeBabii5 9 years
ha! good to know... both my wrists are double jointed (or something) and i can bend them down all they way so that they lay flat against my inner arm and they alwaysss need to be cracked..and its LOUD. and it grosses pretty much everyone out. if i bend them that way and stick a hair elastic around them they'll stay put and i can stick them out of my sleeves like nubs since it creeps my friends out so much.. which i have never done. ever.
TidalWave TidalWave 9 years
Well it may not be bad for my joints, but it definitely perpetuates my anxiety and fidgitiness.
animatedpunk animatedpunk 9 years
well........ I have certain joints that I can crack repeatedly.... with no time in between. Is that something different? My shoulder blades, left wrist, ankles, and neck do this.........
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
I love hearing this! I'm a big knuckle cracker. I just have one question - I had a chiropractor tell me once that it was ok to crack joints but that you shouldn't use any leverage when cracking your neck - like pushing your chin to the side with your hand. Is that true? Totally bummed me out.
injustica injustica 9 years
YES! I'm so glad I'm not wrecking my knuckles by cracking them! Fortunately, my boyfriend cracks his knuckles too, and even helps me out by cracking my back when it's needed.
MandyJoBo MandyJoBo 9 years
I meant to add that it sounds like I'm at a chiropractor, it's so good. I would do it now but I have a towel on my head. :(
MandyJoBo MandyJoBo 9 years
I have a very big "crack habit" (hehe) regarding my neck. I crack it all the time and IT FEELS SO GOOD!!! My boyfriend is SO envious!
Deadly-Lemur Deadly-Lemur 9 years
Oliveoyle625 - I've been cracking my knuckles since I was a kid and they've never gotten bigger. I can crack pretty much every joint in my body, even my nose. (Yes, I know it's weird.) I spend a lot of time stretching & cracking each day, and usually spend a few minutes before bed doing a thorough job of it. If I don't I'll end up with something (back, neck, feet, etc.) feeling sore within a few minutes, making it hard to sleep well.
oliveoyle625 oliveoyle625 9 years
That might be true, but doesn't cracking your knuckles make them bigger?
bchicgrl bchicgrl 9 years
YAY it's super duper nice to know that cracking is not going to cause any long term damage, I can crack just about everything except for my neck (wish I could though :()
clareberrys clareberrys 9 years
I love to crack! And Im with you blues that once I start I have to do everything (fingers, toes, neck, back, arm!) My boyfriend cracks too so he never gets annoyed!
Anabellatc Anabellatc 9 years
I have to admit that it feels good when it happens...but i the sound gives me a weird feeling...i don't like doing it on purpose! I do crack my knees though, and it relives the pressure on the joints :)
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