There are two kinds of people in this world: those who crack their knuckles, and those who cringe every time they hear the noise of someone else’s joints popping one by one.
If you’re part of the first group, you’ve probably heard someone tell you how bad it is for your health to constantly crack your knuckles. You may have wondered, but that probably never stopped you from doing it again. After years of debate on whether or not cracking your knuckles is bad for you, we finally have an answer.
As you age, your body changes. You may have noticed that your muscles start to cramp, your joints start to ache and you hear ‘popping’ noises when you walk up and down stairs. If you crack your knuckles on a regular basis, you probably enjoy feeling that stretch in your fingers, followed by the popping sound. But do you know what’s actually happening to your body when you crack your knuckles?
Here’s the science of it: at your joint, two bones come together inside your body. They are attached with ligaments. There is a small amount of space between your bones in order to allow your fingers to bend. When you crack your knuckles, you pull apart the surfaces of the joint and stretch the bones apart. This brings down the pressure in the joint.
There is a fluid inside your joints that contains gases such as carbon dioxide, oxygen and nitrogen. When pressure decreases in the joint, these gasses are freed. The gas bubble that is released by cracking creates that loud popping sound you hear – the one that makes a bystander cringe.
According to Dr. Boutin, a radiologist at the University of California, Davis, cracking your knuckles stretches out your joints. Have you ever noticed a better range of motion in your fingers after cracking your knuckles? This happens because lowering the pressure in your joints allows your fingers to become more flexible.
Nope! Dr. Greg Kawchuk from the University of Alberta explains that people probably assume it’s a bad habit because of that infamous popping noise. There is no evidence to suggest that cracking your knuckles can cause inflammation or arthritis. Studies have also shown that knuckle cracking doesn’t increase joint degeneration.
If you wan to call your mom and tell her you were right, now is the time. While some people may never get used to that knuckle-cracking noise, you’re free to crack away without those mythical health concerns!