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For Real, Though: Is it Bad to Crack Your Knuckles?

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It’s sooo satisfying but is it bad to crack your knuckles? For years we’ve thought that the delightfully disgusting cracking sound was the caused by air bubbles bursting in our joint fluid. Although this was generally considered to be harmless the Is cracking your knuckles bad? debate raged on. Last year researchers at the University of Alberta used MRI video to discover an entirely different reason for the crack.

According to study author Gregory Kawchuk, “It’s a little bit like forming a vacuum. As the joint surfaces suddenly separate, there is no more fluid available to fill the increasing joint volume, so a cavity is created and that event is what’s associated with the sound.” In other words, you’re sucking fluid in rather than pushing air out. So does this change anything? Is it bad to crack your knuckles?

Arthritis with thunder of fingers

Woman holding her fingers
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So does this change anything? Is it bad to snap your fingers? We still don’t have a definitive yes or no answer to this question but numerous studies have found that cracking your knuckles won’t cause arthritis. That was the big danger most people worried about. In fact, part of the reason cracking any of your joints is so sublimely satisfying is that it really does help to loosen them up so the good feeling isn’t just your imagination. Like so many of life’s pleasures, the more you crack your joints the easier it is to get that pop and release so it’s easy to see why it can be addictive.

Plus, there’s the secret charge some people get from making those around them cringe (We know you’re not one of them!). Before you start cracking with abandon, there is a down side to overdoing it. A 1990 study found that habitual knuckle crackers were more likely to suffer from swollen hands and reduced grip strength. It is also possible to cause injury by pulling or twisting your fingers too forcefully. The bottom line is that, if you just can’t resist cracking your knuckles — go for it! However, know when to say when. Remember that this only applies to painless cracking. If you feel any discomfort at all, don’t do it! And though it’s probably harmless and definitely satisfying — try to avoid grossing everyone out too much.

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