What’s the truth about knuckle cracking? A hand specialist explains

We have some good news and some bad news for folks who crack their knuckles. The good news is cracking your knuckles is not harmful and does not cause arthritis. The bad news, you are most likely still annoying those around you. 

Dr. Greg Kolovich
Dr. Greg Kolovich, hand and micro surgery specialist with Optim Orthopedics

Dr. Greg Kolovich is a hand and micro surgery specialist with Optim Orthopedics. He is asked regularly about the debunked therapy that popping your knuckles causes arthritis or other damage.

“There’s no truth to it. It’s not bad,” Dr. Kolovich says. “Knuckle cracking has never been shown to cause a threat.”

All of our joints have fluid in them, Dr. Kolovich says, like oil in your car’s pistons. When you crack your knuckles, the fluid forms a bubble and divides. As the bubble collides back together, it makes a popping sound. In reality, Dr. Kolovich says, it’s nothing but fluid moving over your joints.

Even Dr. Kolovich pops his knuckles.

“I’ve cracked my knuckles my whole life, and I have zero arthritis issues.”

So could knuckle cracking be good for you?

Dr. Kolovich says it doesn’t matter either way. His opinion, besides the fact that it feels good, is that cracking your knuckles is like stretching your joints, which is a good thing.

Joints don’t have a direct blood supply; therefore, to get nutrients, oxygen and sugar, they require fluid transfer to their cells. So any movement of the joint is good, Dr. Kolovich says.

“It’s like a door hinge. If a door hinge sits there unused for years, it’ll rust,” Dr. Kolovich describes. “Anything that is going to help stretch and keep your joints limber, do it.”

If you do experience any pain within your hand, wrist or elbow, Dr. Kolovich can help. He can be contacted at Optim Orthopedics at 800-827-6536.

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