Myths, Lies, and Buzzfeed

harrison, brennen, marielle, & mallorie

Does cracking your knuckles give you arthritis?

Here's what happens to your knuckles when you crack them

Over the years there have been several supposed "side effects" of cracking your knuckles:

These are just some of them...

  • Arthritis of the Proximal Phalanx Joint (PIP)
  • Arthritis of the MP Joint
  • Lower grip strength

As it turns out, it DOESN'T give you arthritis.

While cracking your knuckles might not lead to arthritis, it does appear to have other consequences. In a study of 300 people aged 45 and older, habitual knuckle crackers were not found to have an increased risk of arthritis in their hands. They were, however, more likely to have hand swelling and lower grip strength


The noise is created in the same manner. The space between the joints increases, causing the gases dissolved in the synovial fluid bathing the joint to form microscopic bubbles

In fact, very few studies have been carried out at all. One of the most well-known is the self-inflicted research rewarded with an Ig Nobel Prize in 2009. For more than 60 years, a Californian doctor called Donald Unger cracked the knuckles of his left hand at least twice a day, leaving his right knuckles uncracked. His conclusion? "I'm looking at my fingers, and there is not the slightest sign of arthritis in either hand," he said.

In a larger study conducted in Detroit in 1990, researchers examined the hands of three hundred people over the age of 45. Knuckle-crackers appeared to have a grip that wasn’t as strong, and 84% of them had signs of swelling in their hands. The authors say this means knuckle-cracking should be discouraged, but the people who crack their knuckles might feel more discomfort in their hands in the first place. Could this indicate a predisposition towards problems later on, rather than a cause? It’s worth pointing out that when it came to the crucial question of whether the joint-crackers had more osteoarthritis the answer was no.


While cracking knuckles does not cause arthritis it does reduce grip strength and has been linked with other negative behaviors like smoking drinking, and manual labour.

Works Cited:

"Does Knuckle Cracking Cause Arthritis? - Harvard Health." Harvard Health. Harvard Medical School, 16 Aug. 2014. Web. 15 Sept. 2015.


Hammond, Claudia. "Does Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis?" BBC. BBC, 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 15 Sept. 2015.


Mercola. "Cracking Knuckles: Is It Harmful?" Mercola.com. Dr. Mercola, 08 Nov. 2010. Web. 15 Sept. 2015.


Pappas, Dimitrios. "Arthritis Information." Arthritis Information. John Hopkins Medical School, 10 Sept. 2007. Web. 15 Sept. 2015.