Snap, crackle, pop. Sometimes there is nothing more satisfying than cracking your knuckles. Some will say it causes arthritis or makes your knuckles larger. True or false?
First of all, what’s causing the cracking? In general, as long as the cracking is not accompanied by pain or swelling, you’re OK. When your joints crack, it’s usually because the muscle is tight, which can cause friction around your bones, creating the sound you hear. As long as no pain accompanied the pop, it’s usually ok.
When tendons rub a joint, they can also make a sound. That is partially why your joints will crack more as you age; the cartilage around them is wearing down, which results in noisier joints than usual. So, is it bad to crack your knuckles and joints? Knuckle poppers, rejoice: cracking your knuckles is not bad for you. Here’s what actually happens when you crack your knuckles: there’s nitrogen hanging out in your joints. When there’s a sudden change in how your joints are positioned, like when you stretch in the morning, the gas is released, which makes that popping sound you hear. It is the fast movement that’s key; if you tried to crack your knuckles with slow movements, it wouldn’t work.
A study from 2017 found that knuckle-crackers didn’t have more swelling or weakness than those who didn’t crack. Another released in the same year found that cracking knuckles doesn’t affect grip strength either.