Nervous Habits: “Cracking” Your Knuckles

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Some people twirl their hair, some people tap their foot up and down—others crack their knuckles.

Maybe it’s not something you do every day, but at some point you have probably found yourself cracking your knuckles.

There’s not any scientific evidence to explain why people do it, some say it’s a nervous habit, while others say, it just feels good.

What Happens When You “Crack” Your Knuckles

In reality, when you "crack" your knuckles—you’re not actually cracking anything. You're actually doing more bursting than cracking. The popping noise you hear is caused by small bubbles bursting in your synovial fluid, a yolk-like substance that lubricates the areas between bones and reduces friction for ease of movement.

The sensation of cracking your fingers feels good because the stretching of the joint also stimulates nerve endings found along the fingers; joints can’t be cracked more than once within 15 minutes to a half hour, which is about how long it takes for those gasses to dissolve back into your synovial fluid.

Does “Cracking” Your Knuckles Hurt You?

Despite what you may have heard or read on the internet, cracking your knuckles won't give you arthritis. In fact, studies have shown those with arthritis weren’t any likelier to be knuckle-crackers compared to those who were. It turns out there is no scientific correlation between cracking your knuckles and developing arthritis in your joints, which is when one or more of the points where your bones meet develop inflammation.

However, chronic knuckle-popping might lead to some hand discomfort, including swelling, reduced hand strength and even some finger or joint problems.

Need a Hand Check Up?

Ochsner Hand Care Center offers an integrated, comprehensive care team of specially-trained surgeons, physician assistants, nurses and occupational therapists who all work together to provide the best care and results for hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder ailments in both adults and children.

Specialized services include hand surgery, microsurgery and occupational therapy.

Ochsner Hand Center clinics are available Uptown, on Jefferson Highway and in Kenner.

To schedule an appointment call, 1-866-624-7637.

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