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Harvard Health Blog
Knuckle cracking: Annoying and harmful, or just annoying?
Robert H. Shmerling, MD,
Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
i think it’s linked to stress because when i’m cracking knuckles i feel like i want to hurt myself trying to break my finger or something. the sound it’s making gives me satisfaction about my frustration. the action of cracking sounds like trying to break something in order to make diversion of my stress and pressure to my hand. that’s why i always crack knuckles when i’m thinking about something never when i’m in action.
Although it’s true, it isn’t dangerous and doesn’t represent any depreciation of a bony structure, it actually can weaken grip strength. There are several publications in pub Med that point to this. It’s most notably talked about amongst gymnasts. It’s postulated to create laxity in the ligaments and tendons that traverse the joints of contention, thereby weakening their contribution toward grip strength. I can only imagine that the strength reduction is modest at best. DPM
This is Mimi — Remember me from days at HHP? I’m still out here and enjoying reading your pithy commentaries. When I saw “knuckle cracking”, I knew you would be the author.
Arthritis Causes Knuckle Cracking
That’s right – or at the very least plausible – that you’ve had it backwards all these years. Arthritis causes knuckle cracking, not the other way around.
There is no medical evidence that knuckle cracking causes arthritis; not one study.
If a young person had mild discomfort or stiffness in his hands, would he crack his knuckles to make them feel better? Yes, he would; and he does.
In my chiropractic practice, I find that young people who crack their knuckles, have early, mild arthritis. These same young people also usually have signs, obvious to a trained physician, of arthritis in their necks and other parts of their spines.
There is nothing inherently wrong with knuckle cracking. It simply must be recognized as a probable early warning sign of arthritis, and we need to get our story straight!
Note: Arthritis is, in most all cases, treatable, and in some cases “curable”.
Will cracking knuckles for a long period of time increase the size of the actual joint? An older figure shared with me that since she had cracked the knuckles on her hands for her whole life, her hands had very large joints. I’m still curious about this, even after a decade!
Thank you for my morning laugh. 🙂
Thank you! I’ve ALWAYS wondered about this and now I can stop nagging my daughter.
I am 74 years young and I have cracked my knuckles since I first discovered they would crack….about 6 years old….and I have no problems from this cracking action. I have more of a concern of me cracking up mentally!!!!
No pun intended, of course!!!
Cracking knuckles is (not) what it’s cracked up to be !
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