Snap, Crackle, Pop: Knuckle-Cracking and Arthritis - Large

Some people like to make their joints pop, much to the annoyance of others, while others simply experience creaking joints with normal activities. Cracking your knuckles may irritate those around you, but you'll be relieved to know it does not lead to arthritis.

If your noisy joints don’t hurt when they snap or pop, most doctors agree that sound you hear is most likely harmless.

Why All the Noise?

If your joints snap and pop, you’re in good company. That distinctive sound you hear is frequently caused by air bubbles in the synovial fluid — the liquid that surrounds and lubricates your joints. And as we get older, noisy tendons or ligaments can make a snapping sound as they pass over bony joints, especially in our knees. This is common as we age and our muscles get smaller or move differently. If you have arthritis — painful swelling of the joints — you also may experience joint cracking.

Just an Irritating Habit?

Contrary to what your mom told you, there is no connection between popping your knuckles and developing arthritis. If your noisy joints don’t hurt when they snap or pop, most doctors agree that sound you hear is most likely harmless.Snap, Crackle, Pop: Knuckle-Cracking and Arthritis - In Content

When to Worry

If you experience pain or swelling when your joints pop, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor. It could be a sign of a mechanical problem or a disease within or around the joint.

Likewise, if a joint pops during a traumatic injury and is associated with pain, swelling, and inability to move the joint comfortably, one should seek medical attention. This may signal a significant injury, such as a ligament or tendon tear, a broken bone, torn cartilage or a dislocated joint.