Posted on: April 10, 2015 at 2:19 pm
Last updated: September 20, 2017 at 3:59 pm

“Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis!”

I’m sure we’ve all heard this phrase before, whether it was from our father, brother, or overbearing mother, it’s been a staple warning to all children for years. This rings particularly true for Donald Unger who, in his teens, was found cracking his knuckles in front of his mom.

Cue the parental lecture.

But Unger wasn’t having any of it and made a vow to single-handedly research the link, if any, between knuckle cracking and arthritis.


What Lies Beneath the Crack

Between our joints is a lubricant-like substance known as synovial fluid, which looks a little like egg yolk, which could explain the Latin origins of the word ‘synovial’ to the Latin ‘Ovum’ meaning egg.

Whenever you stretch out your joints, you release gas which creates bubbles. The noise you hear when you “crack” your knuckles is the noise of those bubbles popping, or collapsing.

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Ever try cracking the same joint twice? It won’t work right away because it takes almost 20 minutes for those gases to return to your synovial fluid.

That Sounds Kind Of Bad…

Based on Unger’s findings, it’s really not.


He decided, long along on that day his mother decided to scoff him on popping his knuckles, that he was going to, in fact, continue cracking his joints in the name of science.

But only on one hand. For the last 60 years, Unger has cracked the knuckles in his left hand while leaving his right hand alone.

And neither hand has arthritis, or any other type of pain.

Knuckle-Crackers Rejoice!


Yes, this man has proven that cracking your knuckles has no link to arthritis.

However, one study in 1990 reported knuckle cracking to lead to swollen hands. While there have been no other studies on the matter, we’re not prepared to tell you to bust out the party favors just yet.

Every person, and every hand, is different. While Unger’s hand is living happily with cracked knuckles, it doesn’t entirely prove it could cause harm in your joints.

So, you can decide if it’s a good choice or not. Will you start cracking your knuckles now or do you still believe your mother was on to something?

To learn more about Unger’s study, visit the Laughing Squid.

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