It’s likely a common scene in your life: You’re absentmindedly sitting around or watching TV and you get the urge to snap, crackle, and pop — your knuckles, that is. In addition to letting you know that you’re driving them crazy, your friends and family are probably not shy about telling you about the so-called dangers of cracking your knuckles. But is there really any truth to claims that this habit causes joint damage and even arthritis?
When you’re cracking your knuckles, you’re creating more space in the knuckle after negative pressure causes gas dissolving in the joint to make a popping sound. Popping your knuckles often creates increased flexibility in joints, which is why it actually feels good sometimes. And the good news is, you’re likely not doing any harm.
According to Dori Cage, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with specialty training in hand surgery based in San Diego, there is no literature to support that cracking your knuckles is bad for you or causes any long-term health effects. “It definitely does not cause arthritis, as many people are often led to believe.”
The only real effect of cracking your knuckles is that it might drive the people around you crazy, and there may be repercussions for that, she said. However, if you’re looking to break this habit anyway, Cage suggests adopting a new stretching routine that falls short of popping your knuckles. Otherwise, pop away, hopefully in the presence of people who don’t mind it.