You’re sitting in a quiet room… a meeting… a waiting room… a classroom… and all of a sudden — POP — a series of cracking noises follows — someone is popping their knuckles. For some of us, cracking knuckles brings relief, for others, the sound alone is enough to make you puke.
Between 25-54% of all people crack their knuckles — but are all of these people doomed to succumb to injury and arthritis in their hands for doing so? As it turns out, that’s truly just an old wive’s tale. There is no scientific correlation between knuckle cracking and developing arthritis in your joints. Why? Because popping your knuckles, just like receiving chiropractic adjustments, doesn’t actually crack anything. The pop you often hear is caused by small bubbles in your synovial fluid that burst, releasing gas– similar to bubble wrap!
Among the numerous scientific studies done around the great knuckle popping debate, one published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine in 2010 found that in their study of 215 participants, ages 50-89, arthritis was actually more prevalent among those who did not pop their knuckles at 21.5%, while only 18% of those who did pop their knuckles had arthritis. One of the most interesting studies about knuckle cracking was conducted by Dr. Donald Unger — who, like many of us, had his mother warn him that if he cracked his knuckles he would get arthritis! He spent more than 60 years cracking only the knuckles on his left hand (at least 2x a day). His findings, published in a journal called Arthritis & Rheumatism in 1998, found that there was no discernible sign of arthritis in either hand. This video does a great job explaining his findings and the knuckle cracking phenomenon!
So what does all this mean? You’re free to crack your knuckles as you please, without consequence… other than probably irritating those around you.