A lot of people would state that cracking your knuckles is extremely bad and can lead to arthritis. Well….that’s not entirely right. It’s definitely an annoying habit, but it’s not necessarily going to lead to leaving your hands looking like they’ve been mangled and twisted beyond all recognition, nor will it cripple your fingers unless you do it religiously and without cease. Now if you continually crack your knuckles when you don’t need to then you might have problems later on down the road. However, many studies have found, and people are free to dispute this if they want, that cracking your knuckles when you feel the need will not lead to any permanent damage.
The popping/crunching sound heard is the displacement of air, not your knuckles actually ‘cracking’.
Just cracking your knuckles should not cause any lasting damage. It won’t strain any necessary tissues or ligaments, at least not enough to cause arthritis. In the long-term it shouldn’t even cause any lasting harm so long as you don’t do it excessively.
If you want to know what’s creating the sound that occurs however when you do crack your knuckles then pay attention. It’s caused by gas bubbles that are found in the synovial fluid that encapsulates your joints. If you pull on the joint or distend the capsule then the walls of the capsule will then expand and the pressure on the fluid inside will lessen. At this point the carbon dioxide gases, which normally dissolve in the fluid, will form bubbles that will pop, thereby making the noise.
As you might know already this can cause a great amount of relief.
So have you ever cracked your knuckles and then realized that your joints felt so much better? You likely got dirty looks if you did it in public or in a private place since many people find cracking your knuckles to be a disgusting or aggressive habit. But the process, while it takes milliseconds, can make your joints feel so good and relaxed that you’ll feel instant relief.
The cracking aspect, or stretching, allows for a temporary increase in range for the the joint. When it goes back into position the fluid will come under normal pressure and the carbon dioxide bubbles will go back into the solution. It will usually take a few minutes before you’re able to crack your knuckles again, but unless it’s absolutely needed then it’s probably a good idea not to. It’s possible to avoid any long-term damage from cracking your knuckles, but it’s also a good idea not to do it every few minutes.