Straight, No Chaser Reader Submission: Does Joint Cracking Cause Arthritis?


I actually understand the question. You would think all that snap, knuckle and pop would represent bad things happening to your bones, and over time, it could cause damage to the joints. Fortunately this isn’t what is happening.

Basically manipulation of the joint space when you’re attempting to crack your knuckles or other joints creates a vacuum within the (synovial) fluid that bathes the joint. The air within that vacuum can result in the characteristic popping sounds you hear when further manipulation occurs, disrupting that air pocket. In other instances, popping sounds from the joints can be the result of the snapping of tendons. This latter consideration is more likely as you age, with narrowing of joint spaces and stiffening of tendons that already occur.


Here’s what you need to be concern about: pain when your knuckles pop. Generally, the absence of pain suggests that you’re not harming anything of note. Conversely, the presence of pain suggests a problem potentially exists that requires evaluation. These problems could represent the following:

  • Arthritis
  • Bursitis: inflammation of the small, fluid-filled sac that cushions bone as they move across other moving body parts, such as muscles, skin or tendons
  • Tendonitis: inflammation of the tissue that connects muscle to bone


So regarding the question of does cracking your knuckles cause arthritis, it’s a pretty simple “no.” With any luck, you’ll just have to wait to age for that to happen!

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