Will Cracking Your Knuckles Lead to Arthritis?

The short answer from an orthopaedic surgeon
girl cracking her knuckles

Q: Does cracking your knuckles lead to arthritis?

A: Maybe you do it out of habit, or as a way to release tension. But if you’re a regular at cracking your knuckles, you’ve probably heard that cracking your knuckles will enlarge them or cause arthritis in your joints. Is there any truth to this?

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Turns out, this is an old wives’ tale. Habitual knuckle-cracking won’t cause osteoarthritis or joint enlargement.

Cracking your knuckles releases gas, in the form of nitrogen bubbles from the space around your joints. The sound is triggered as the bubbles are compressed. Researchers aren’t sure if the sound emitted from cracking your knuckles is that of gas bubbles being formed or released. But it’s just gas, nonetheless. 

That said, the sound can make some people cringe. And a 1999 study found weaker hand grips and more hand swelling among knuckle-crackers.

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— Orthopaedic surgeon Kim L. Stearns, MD

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