TikTok Dr reveals what knuckle cracking is actually doing to your hands

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·Lifestyle Reporter
·3-min read
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Are you a knuckle cracker, or does it make you cringe?

Wherever you stand on knuckle cracking, many of us grew up being warned not to do it “or you’ll have arthritis later in life".

According to popular Australian science communicator, and TikToker, Dr Karl, regularly cracking your knuckles has not been shown to lead to arthritis, although it may cause another issue later in life.

TikTok dr karl on knuckle cracking
Dr Karl answers the age-old question: does cracking your knuckles lead to arthritis. Photo: TikTok

Studies show knuckle cracking does not lead to arthritis

Dr Karl explained in a TikTok video: “When you pull on your finger to crack your joint, you make the joint space, the space between your bones, bigger - and this sucks the ligaments in and it makes a gas bubble pop into existence.”

“However the energy release is only about seven percent of what you need to damage the cartilage.”

He also referenced a study that involved a doctor who cracked the joints of his left hand for 50 years.

Joints and popping sound diagram - Physiological Mechanism of cavitation.
“When you pull on your finger to crack your joint, you make the joint space, the space between your bones, bigger - and this sucks the ligaments in and it makes a gas bubble pop into existence.” Dr Karl. Source: Getty Images

“At the end, there was no difference in arthritis between his left and right hands. But one person is not an adequate sample size,” he said.

He does however warn that knuckle cracking may lead to a different challenge later on in life - weakened grip strength.

He further explained that regularly cracking your knuckles may weaken your grip strength by up to 75 per cent.

Photo: TikTok
Photo: TikTok

How can knuckle cracking weaken grip strength?

Grip strength (the measure of how long you can hold an object over time), is an often taken-for-granted body function, that is essential not only for opening jars, but also for every activity you undertake in your daily life.

Within the TikTok video, Dr Karl references a study where researchers observed a group of 300 people, who had cracked the knuckles on both of their hands for 35 years.

“And guess what?”, says Dr Karl. “They had no extra cases of arthritis but they had slightly swollen joints, which by itself is no big deal, and their grip strength was about one quarter of what it should have been,” Dr Karl said.

Senior trying to open tough jar lid
Regularly cracking your knuckles may impact grip strength later in life. Source: Getty Images

“So there’s no strong evidence that cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis. However it could make it difficult to unscrew a jar of Vegemite.”

A number of people who viewed the video have replied with their own experiences of grip strength loss after years of knuckle cracking.

“I have been cracking my knuckles for many many years. At the age of 49 I now find it so difficult to open jars. Thanks Dr Karl but it’s too late now," one person stated.

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