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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.

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