I constantly crack (or pop) my knuckles. Are there any negative (or positive) side effects to it? I like to crack my knuckles, but I want to stop if it can have negative effects. What have scientific studies said about this subject?
A common medical myth is that cracking your knuckles causes arthritis, but is has been shown that cracking your knuckles, and popping your joints in general, will not raise your risk for developing arthritis.1 It has also been shown to not cause degenerative joint disease in your hand joints in old age.2
However, cracking your knuckles does have some risks. One study from 1990,3 showed that, while cracking your knuckles does not increase your risk of arthritis, it does impair your hand function. It was shown to lower grip strength and cause hand inflammation in habitual knuckle crackers. Acute injuries to ligaments in the knuckles as a result of cracking knuckles has also been recorded.4
There are no physical benefits to cracking your knuckles. It has been observed that there is a possibly perceived sense of therapeutic release when cracking your knuckles, which is most likely the reason that many people do it habitually. Though it is not incredibly dangerous, knuckle cracking is a habit that is probably best avoided.