I've long enjoyed cracking my knuckles, but my friend told me it harms my joints. Is she right?
A. It depends. Many people like to crack their joints — especially their knuckles — and do it several times a day as a way of easing nerves or anxiety. But the resulting popping noise doesn't mean your joints are actually cracking or being moved back into place. Since the spaces in our joints naturally build up nitrogen bubbles over time, that sound is just those bubbles escaping from their spots.
On the other hand, if you already have a joint problem such as arthritis, you probably shouldn't crack your knuckles or other joints, like those in your neck or back. Doing so might aggravate your joint symptoms. Done in a sudden or jerky way, cracking your neck or back joints can even injure nearby nerves or other tissues. You should immediately stop cracking any of your joints if you feel discomfort, pain, or numbness.
Image: © Image Source/Getty Images
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.