Does knuckle cracking cause arthritis? Expert weighs in


Do you love the sound of your knuckles cracking? From restlessness to pure pleasure, there is something about this habit that seems captivating. But have you ever wondered about the side effects of knuckle cracking? Your mother or grandmother must have stopped you from cracking knuckles telling you that it can make your fingers fat or it can make your bones weak. If these constant reminders have also made you wonder whether or not knuckle cracking leads to arthritis, read on.

Health Shots reached out to Dr Akhilesh Yadav, Associate Director – Orthopaedics & Joint Replacement, Max Hospital, Vaishali, Uttar Pradesh, to know if knuckle cracking increases your risk of developing arthritis or not.

Does knuckle cracking cause arthritis?

Arthritis is an umbrella term to refer to various types of conditions affecting joints and surrounding tissues, as per the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. It literally means joint inflammation and is usually characterised by inflammation, stiffness of joints, and decreased range of motion in the affected joints. While it affects people of all ages, it is more common in the elderly. Some of the most common types of arthritis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Now that we have understood the condition, let’s see if a habit like knuckle cracking can actually elevate your risk of developing it or not.

Does cracking your knuckles cause arthritis? Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Are there any side effects of knuckle cracking

According to the orthopedic, there are no known detrimental effects of knuckle cracking or arthritis or otherwise. While the sound may seem like you are actually cracking your knuckles, it’s nowhere near that. Dr Yadav says that the myth that knuckle cracking causes arthritis is one that has persisted for too long. There is no scientific research or any concrete evidence that proves otherwise. So, what exactly happens when you crack your knuckles? To put it simply, there are joints in your fingers and they contain synovial fluid, which helps lubricate these joints. Bubbles form naturally in your joints and when you stretch or crack your fingers, the bubbles release a gas due to a negative pressure that is formed.

In other words, “By moving the joints to extend them, the act of cracking the knuckles can momentarily widen the joint space and produce a vacuum effect. This results in the production of gas bubbles, which in turn provide cracking noise,” adds the expert.

That’s it! There is nothing more to knuckle cracking and it won’t cause arthritis. Neither will it make your fingers fat or anything that you have been hearing as a child.

Woman with arthritis pain
Know the side effects of knuckle cracking. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Anything in excess can be harmful!

While we have learned that knuckle cracking doesn’t really lead to arthritis, it is important to note that excessive or severe knuckle cracking can cause some serious damage. It can harm your ligaments or joints, particularly if done repeatedly and forcefully over an extended period of time.

It is advised to refrain from routinely cracking your knuckles to maintain the general health of your joints, even though they may not result in arthritis, advises Dr Yadav.



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