Here’s What REALLY Happens When You Crack Your Knuckles

"Good" and "Evil" fake tattoos on hands

“Good” and “Evil” fake tattoos on hands | iStock.com/stocksnapper

You may have heard that cracking your knuckles, a habit many of us have, can be bad for your hands and joints. Since there’s little commonly-known information on the subject, you may have dismissed that claim or believed it, but ignored it.

Before you learn whether it’s good for your or bad for you, you have to learn exactly what’s going on when you hear that satisfying “pop.”

When you move a joint, your tendons move with it. When they snap back into place, you hear and feel that satisfying little “pop.” But that’s not EXACTLY what happens when you pop your knuckles.

Rather, when you pop your knuckles (as opposed to hearing your knee, back or neck pop), what you’re hearing and feeling is the sound of joint fluid turning into bubbles as you pull your joints apart and create more space.

And while that sound may seem like harm is being done to your party time and again, the truth is that there’s no direct relationship between popping your knuckles and osteoarthritis.

But does that mean that it’s a COMPLETELY safe activity?

Pain in the finger joints

Pain in the finger joints | iStock.com/Staras

Well…we’re not sure yet, but based on recent studies, there doesn’t appear to much in the way of long-lasting effects. Although it’s hardly conclusive, one doctor, David Unger popped only the knuckle in one hand for 60 years of his life. In his elderly years, he found no difference in how arthritic one hand was versus the other.

It’s thought that the activity, according to a 1990 paper, showed that knuckle-cracking led to reduced grip strength and swelling, but those results have been largely passed over in light of recent studies.

So while it might not have any harm, it likely doesn’t have any real benefit either. So if you were thinking that doing this benefited your own well-being, you can stop. I’m guessing that your co-workers or students sitting around you will probably happily enjoy the silence.