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Can You Get Arthritis from Cracking Your Knuckles?

How often do you crack your knuckles? It is true that almost all of us love cracking knuckles at times in our life, and it also feels good and relaxed sometimes. However, there are also some people who are in to a habitual cracking of knuckles. Though rare cracking of knuckles may not cause any serious issues, however those who are habitual to cracking knuckles have something real to worry about. This current article will talk about cracking knuckles where we will talk about the causes of the cracking sound while cracking our knuckles, effects and also know about some ways to stop cracking knuckles.

Can You Get Arthritis from Cracking Your Knuckles

What Causes the Cracking Sound While Cracking Knuckles?[1]

Before we go for learning about the causes for the cracking sound while cracking knuckles, let us know about something called the Synovial membrane and Synovial fluid.

Our joint, including the knuckles are surrounded by the Synovial membrane which is a membrane forming a capsule around the ends of our bones. Synovial fluid is the fluid which remains inside the synovial membrane and acts as a lubricant and shock absorber so that your bones do not grind together while you move.

Now, when we “Crack” our knuckles or any other joint holding the Synovial membrane and the synovial fluid, it expands the space present between the bones and thus creates negative pressure that draws the synovial fluid in to the new gap. The cracking or the popping sound and the feeling which one experiences while cracking knuckles is that which is caused due to the influx of the synovial fluid in to the new gap.

Let us take a look on some of other suggested causes for the cracking sound produced during cracking knuckles.

  • The cracking or popping sound occur when there forms bubbles in joints as they are pulled apart while cracking knuckles.
  • Rapid stretching of ligaments surrounding the synovial membrane in the knuckles are believed to produce the cracking sound
  • Some suggestions also include that the within joint adhesion are broken while cracking knuckles.

Though there have been many theories proposed and suggested causes for the cracking of knuckles or the joints; the Synovial fluid influx is taken to be one of the accepted causes with supporting evidences for the same.

Can you get Arthritis from Cracking your Knuckles?

For many years people believed that Cracking knuckles can lead to Arthritis. However, recent studies and research have explained that cracking of knuckles are not associated with Arthritis, especially osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis[2] is caused due to the fact that the cartilage present within our joints is progressively being damaged and the synovial fluid is typical diminished as well. This reduction of the synovial fluid leads to the bones coming in contact with each other and cause pain and stiffness of the joint. Repetitive movements of the joints, age factor and diet are some of the factors that contribute to the condition of osteoarthritis.

It is true that repetitive movements of the joints can cause wear and tear and lead to osteoarthritis; and cracking of knuckles on a regular or habitual basis also causes repetitive movements of the knuckles or the joints; but till date there are no such evidences for the same. However, it must be noted that habitual cracking of knuckles can cause the condition where there occurs a reduction in synovial fluid and thus weakening the joints and making them more prone to crack and damage.

What are the Effects of Cracking Knuckles?[3]

In this section we will know about some of the negative as well as the positive effects of cracking knuckles.

Negative Effects of Cracking Knuckles:

  1. Cracking knuckles may cause impaired hand functions: Many studies have found that though cracking of knuckles is not linked with Arthritis, it is associated with impaired hand functions. People who go for habitual cracking of knuckles experience symptoms of impaired hand functions like lower grip strength, swelling in the area etc. It is also noted that continuous and regular cracking of knuckles can cause partially torn ligaments and dislocated fingers.
  2. Cracking knuckles may grow Knuckle pads: It is also known that cracking knuckles on a regular and continuous basis for many years can cause the formation of knuckle pads. These knuckle pads are the firm nodules which are formed in the fingers due to repetitive trauma. Though knuckle pads do not have any physical symptoms, they are known to be linked with psychological and cosmetic issues.
  3. Damage to the joints due to excessive Cracking of knuckles: “Nothing in excess is ever good!” It must be remembered that excessive cracking of knuckles on regular basis for many years can weaken the joint and make it more prone to crack and damage.

Positive Effects of Cracking Knuckles:

At times due to excessive pressure or manual labour our joints or the knuckles get stiff and we experience a reduced mobility. When we crack the knuckles, the joint loosen and starts having more mobility after a short while. Perhaps this positive feeling makes some people turn in to habitual knuckle cracker.

It is also believed that habitual knuckle crackers come in to the habit of cracking knuckles as a form of stress relief. However, like Biting of nails, knuckle cracking also resembles more to a nervous habit.

An ultimate explanation to the positive effects of cracking knuckles is that there is no significant advantage to cracking the knuckles, rather a habitual knuckle cracking may cause damage of joint and cause impaired hand function.

So, all you chronic knuckle crackers, “It is time to stop cracking your knuckles for your good!”

How to Stop Cracking your Knuckles?

If you are willing to know about some of the ways to stop cracking your knuckles then this is the section you need to take a look on for some of the relevant and effective tricks.

  1. Get in to Behavioural Therapy to Help Stop Crack Knuckles: Cracking of knuckles in most cases is a behaviour which can be changed or stopped by Behavioural therapy. You can reach a specialist in behavioural therapy and get over the habit of cracking knuckles by following his or her advice accordingly.
  2. The Rubber Band Effect in Treating Cracking Knuckles: Tying a rubber band in the fingers and allowing the band to release and hit over the skin of your finger can be effective when done during the time you feel like cracking your fingers.
  3. Keep your hands busy for distracting the urge of cracking your knuckles: You can stop the cracking of knuckles by keeping your hands busy in something else when you feel like cracking knuckles. One example would be holding a pen or a pencil and trying to move or rotate it with your fingers. Why not practise this magician trick? You can do it in a better way and for good.
  4. Adopt a new hobby that keeps your fingers engaged to stop cracking knuckles: “Be a creator!” One of the most positive ways to get over cracking your knuckles is, adopt a new hobby like painting, drawing or writing; which involves the use of your fingers. This way you can ignore your habit of cracking knuckles and create something new of your own. It really is amazing to have own creation you know!
  5. Avoid too much of complaints on the issue of Cracking knuckles: Remember, though it is good to be cautious and informed about your habit of knuckle cracking; it is not at all a good idea to complain or listen to complaints more. This excessive complaining can increase the stress in the chronic knuckle cracker and can make the condition of cracking knuckles even worse.
  6. Keep away from stress to stop cracking knuckles: Many people grow the habit of knuckle cracking because of excessive stress. It is important to note down the triggers of your stress that leads you to crack your knuckles. You must try to getting over those stresses by effective means.
  7. Have a friend for supporting you in restricting cracking of knuckles: If you are a habitual knuckle cracker and crack your knuckles every now and then, have a friend or a family member with you to support you in getting over the habit. Let them intimate you when they feel you are about to crack your knuckles unconsciously. One more thing to note; “A gentle touch has a powerful effect!” Your supporters can give your arms a gentle touch, hold your hands gently when they feel like you are having the urge of cracking knuckles.

A final note on Cracking Knuckles:

Apart from all the above mentioned steps, it is always important to believe that cracking of knuckles is a behaviour which requires time to change or get over it. So, have patience and follow the above mentioned steps in a strict manner for getting rid of it.

One important point to have a final note on cracking knuckles is that such a symptom can be linked to a serious anxiety disorder which can cause automatic or an unconscious cracking of knuckles and it requires treatment. So, kindly reach an expert professional for treating the anxiety disorder and thus help self getting over with the unconscious habit of cracking knuckles.

“Not every habit grows in conscious manner; but it can be changed by being a little conscious about it.”


  1. What causes the noise when you crack a joint? | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
  2. Osteoarthritis (OA) | Arthritis | CDC
  3. Effect of habitual knuckle cracking on hand function. (nih.gov)

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 16, 2021

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