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Person cracking their knuckles.
Person cracking their knuckles.

Can You Get Arthritis From Cracking Your Knuckles?

The Truth From a Rheumatologist

If a friend told you that cracking your knuckles causes arthritis, they may have just been searching for a nice way to get you to stop the habit.

“The truth is there is no connection between cracking your knuckles and arthritis — or any other long-term health problem,” says Eric M. Ruderman, MD, a rheumatologist at Northwestern Medicine.

According to Dr. Ruderman, when you crack your knuckles, the popping noises or “crepitus” are caused by bursting gas bubbles in the fluid that help lubricate your joints. The bubbles pop when you pull the bones apart, either by stretching the fingers or bending them backward. It releases some endorphins that help reduce pain, but otherwise it’s thought to be a harmless habit that doesn’t signal or cause any type of health problem.

Fun fact: It’s hard to crack the same knuckle twice in a row because it takes time for the gas bubbles to regather in that knuckle to create the popping sound.