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Does Knuckle Cracking Cause Arthritis?

What is knuckle cracking exactly, and is it bad for your hands?

Joints are surrounded by a capsule that contains fluid, which acts as a lubricant. When joints are cracked, nitrogen bubbles are released creating the popping sounds. Once the knuckles are cracked, it takes about 25 – 30 minutes for this gas to re-dissolve into the joint fluid. During this time, it is difficult to crack the knuckles again.

Robert H. Shmerling, MD and faculty editor of Harvard Health Publishing reports that cracking the knuckles is probably harmless. However, chronic knuckle cracking may lead to reduced grip strength, and there have been occasional reports of tendon injuries and dislocations.1

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), there is no link between arthritis and cracking your knuckles.2 If you want to crack those knuckles, it’s unlikely to cause harm. But if you want to stop someone else from the habit, you will need a better reason than the threat of arthritis.



  1. Shmerling RH. Knuckle cracking: annoying and harmful, or just annoying? Harvard Health. May 14, 2018.
  2. Kevin deWeber, Mariusz Olszewski, Rebecca Ortolano. Knuckle Cracking and Hand Osteoarthritis. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. Mar 2011, 24(2) 169-174.



Some people say knuckle cracking relieves pressure in their joints. Others like cracking knuckles right before getting down to business. Then there are the people who cringe at the sound of cracking knuckles and delcare, “That’s going to give you arthritis!”


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