If you pop or crack your joints, you probably do. What happens to our bones when we crack them? And is it bad for you? Synovial fluid is this lubricant-like substance that’s found in between your joints. It kind of looks like an egg yolk.
So when you stretch out your joint, you are releasing gas, and that gas forms a bubble, and it collapses and pops. To crack the same knuckle again, you have to wait about 20 minutes for the gas to return to that fluid.
So how is that different from a pop you hear when you stand up quickly? The sound you probably hear then is the snapping sound tendons make when sliding between muscles or over bones. When a joint moves, the tendon snaps quickly over, and it makes a popping sound.
So is the knuckle cracking habit safe? Probably. Donald Unger was a self-described researcher who chose to pop the joints in one of his hands for 60 years, but not the other one. And he wanted to find out if popping your knuckles would give you arthritis. After 60 years of doing it, he found that he didn’t have any more arthritis in one hand than in the other.
But there’s still a chance it’s not right for you. One 1990 study did find that cracking your knuckles over an extended period led to hand swelling and decreased grip strength, but there hasn’t been any follow-up research on that.
So while cracking your knuckles might not be bad for you, there’s still no guarantee that your popping habit won’t annoy the people around you.