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Go Ahead, Pop Those Knuckles! New Research on Knuckle Popping

Updated on April 27, 2015

MRI video showing the joint as knuckle cracks

Pop, pop, pop- knuckle cracking. You either hate it or you love it. Some people cringe at the mere sound of popping knuckles. Others, go out of their way to get that "pop" they know is there.

Ever since I was a child, I have been told the horrors of knuckle cracking. I pop all the time. Apparently, I even pop my knuckles at night while I’m dead asleep. It drives the people around me crazy. They tell me it’s disgusting or that I’m going to get arthritis. But, the joke is now on them.

For years, scientists have argued about what does and does not cause knuckle popping. Is the noise from a bubble of gas popping? Or is it from fluid within the joint? Now however, a team of researchers led by Greg Kawchuk at the University of Alberta, were finally able to put the arguing to rest. They successfully used real time MRI video technology to see what actually happens within the finger joints when someone pops their knuckles.

This study, recently published in PLOS ONE, concluded that they had, “direct evidence from cine MRI that the mechanism of joint cracking is related to cavity formation rather than bubble collapse.” So, if there is a cavity forming rather than a bubble collapsing does that make it better or worse for the fellow knuckle cracker?

Apparently, it’s hard to say. However, evidence does show that popping our knuckles isn’t bad for us. According to the article, “The literature in this area is confusing in that the energy produced during joint cracking is thought to exceed the threshold for damages, but habitual knuckle cracking has not been shown to increase joint degeneration.”

Researchers hope to further investigate the joints health in regard to habitual knuckle cracking. They do suspect however, that knuckle popping may signify healthy joints.

So go ahead, relish in the joint popping moment. I don’t know about you, but I feel the need to pop some joints.

Knuckle Cracking Poll

Do you hate or love knuckle cracking?

See results


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