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GP Q/A: Cracking knuckles

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Reader Question:

Hi Dr Joe,

I used to crack my knuckles all the time as a teen, then it started hurting so I stopped for about 10 years. Now when I crack them it doesn’t hurt anymore. Why do knuckles crack? Is it bad for me? Why did it hurt and will it give me arthritis if I keep doing it?

Incidentally, a lot of my other joints crack all the time when I move, why is that?

Thanks,

Adam, WA

GP Response

Dr Joe Kosterich MBBS, General Practitioner and Editorial Advisory Board Member of the Virtual Medical Centre and Parenthub responds:Dr Joe

Cracking knuckles is generally harmless. The noise is created by “popping” the joint which makes a miniature vacuum which in turn makes the sound.

If done repeatedly it can cause soreness because you are “stressing” the joint. People have long wondered if doing this leads to arthritis. There is no evidence that it does.

Two American studies compared people who regularly cracked their knuckles and those who did not and found no difference in rates of arthritis or any effect on hand strength.

Whilst not harmful it is not a great habit to have as it will cause joint soreness if done repeatedly.

Some people have “clicky” joints and more easily make sounds when moving. There is no known reason for this other than people being put together differently.

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Dates

Posted On: 30 July, 2014
Modified On: 3 October, 2017

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