Is It Bad to Crack Your Knuckles?

Is it unhealthy to crack your knuckles? It’s a common belief that popping the knuckles leads to arthritis or joint pain in old age. That being said, there has been no conclusive evidence that it is dangerous to crack your knuckles. It can other non-painful negative effects however, such as reduced grip strength.

According to a study that was conducted by Doctor Robert L. Swezey and Stuart E Swezey in 1975, there is no evidence that “knuckle cracking leads to degenerative changes in the metacarpal phalangeal joints in old age”. They deemed the only consequence of knuckle cracking is that it’s annoying to hear. 

A study by Dr. Jorge Castellanos and David Axelrod in 1990 showed that while frequent knuckle cracking did not prove to increase the chance of arthritis, there was a clear indication that grip strength was reduced compared to those who did not crack their knuckles habitually.

There is speculation that over-aggressive cracking of knuckles causes tendon injuries, but this is not understood to be a common issue at this time.

Other Knuckle Issues

If you feel the need to crack your knuckles but can’t, you’re likely dealing with swelling in the joints. If this is the case, you should stop trying to crack your knuckles immediately. This knuckle pain should ease up within a few weeks.

If you cannot pop or crack your knuckles, that does not mean that there is anything wrong. It means that there’s not much fluid in the joints, so there is no fluid movement to create the “pop”.

Other Joint Cracking

There has not been enough research on the popping of other joints to definitively say if it is safe or not. Other common joints to crack include the back, neck, toes, and more. If you feel the need to crack or pop these joints, try to resist and focus on something else, such as deep breathing or other stretches.

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