Knuckle cracking or popping is a habit that many people develop, despite being told it could cause arthritis or harm, but is that really accurate? Long story short, no it does not cause damage in a healthy person. Many start cracking their knuckles as a nervous habit, tick, restlessness, or they’ve noticed the looser feeling in their joints.
One of the most common questions physical therapists receive is if “pops” and “cracks” are good or bad for your joints.
First of all, we need to understand what causes the popping and cracking in our joints.
Physical therapists are trained to be able to safely and intentionally create a pop or a crack through what we call manipulations. Manipulations are maneuvers that involve a high velocity and low amplitude thrust (HVLAT) force to a joint. This can be applied to different body parts including most commonly the neck and back areas. Some people are able to self-manipulate and get a pop on their own, such as cracking their neck or knuckles. The pop that we hear with a manipulation is the release of intra-articular gasses due to a quick release of pressure within the joint.1 It is also important to note that there is no evidence that pops and cracks in the joints result in early arthritis or any future problems.2