There’s a long list of myths and superstitions about knuckle cracking, but the one you probably hear most often delivered by irritated parents is – Cracking your knuckles will damage your bones and muscles.
What actually happens when you hear your joints snap, crack, and pop?
The noise of cracking or popping in our joints is actually nitrogen bubbles bursting in our synovial fluid. Synovial fluid lubricates our joints like motor oil in a car’s engine, reducing friction and preserving our cartilage. The nitrogen bubbles within the synovial fluid usually take 20 minutes to re-form in your joints before they can crack again.
Part of the appeal of knuckle cracking could be that 20-minute lull, when gas bubbles are re-forming in the synovial fluid. We might feel looser during that period, as if we’ve relieved pressure from our joints.
But the satisfaction is mostly in your head. “Feeling good after cracking knuckles is a psychological experience,” say doctors.
Either it’s the fun sound of cracking joints, or the perceived sense of relief, for some people, knuckle cracking becomes a daily habit.
According to doctors, knuckle cracking itself does no harm to our fingers, neck, ankles, or other joints that pop and crack throughout the day — whether from normal day-to-day motions or compulsive habits like pressing knuckles or twisting our neck until we hear that familiar crack.
However, if anyone experiences discomfort while cracking, then there could be a pre-existing condition that is aggravated by twisting and pressing the joint. If there is no pain while knuckle cracking, then anyone is free to indulge themselves.