Is OK to crack my toe knuckles?

11 Jun Is OK to crack my toe knuckles?

Will Cracking Your Toe Knuckles Hurt You?

“Stop cracking your knuckles,” is something you might have heard growing up. Maybe you heard dire warnings about how this habit could lead to arthritis. You may have also heard some of the superstitions about knuckle cracking, for instance, that the number of pops you hear reflects the number of times you’ll fall in love.

Are any of these superstitions or beliefs true? Doubtful, but here’s what we know about this habit.

Some People Find Knuckle Cracking Enjoyable

There’s no question that some people enjoy the pulling, cracking, and popping of their finger and toe joints. Medical researchers estimate that 25 to 45 percent of us enjoy this activity. The majority of people who do it are male.

Some people consider cracking their toe knuckles an indispensable part of a foot massage. It’s a pleasant experience that seems to make sore feet feel better.


image of feet in sand - foot care and diabetes


What’s Happening When You Crack Your Knuckles?

The crackle and pop of your knuckles actually come from bursting nitrogen bubbles that float in the synovial fluid of your joints. The synovial fluid lubricates the joints of your fingers and toes.

When you crack your knuckles, you might feel temporarily looser and more flexible. That’s because it takes about 20 minutes for the bubbles to come back after you’ve burst them. During that time, you might experience a sensation of lightness.

According to doctors, however, that’s an illusion. You really haven’t relieved any pressure, and the sense of looseness is all in your head. As orthopedic surgeon Robert Klapper of Cedars-Sinai Hospital notes, “Feeling good after cracking your knuckles is a psychological experience.”

It Probably Won’t Cause Arthritis

Here’s the good news. Many studies have compared the rates of arthritis between those who cracked their knuckles and those who didn’t. No studies have found evidence that the habit causes arthritis.

The most dramatic example is Donald Unger, a medical researcher who cracked the knuckles of his own hand for more than 50 years. During that time, he refrained from cracking the knuckles on the other. He did not develop arthritis in either hand.

It Might Lead to Other Problems

Now, here’s the bad news. It appears knuckle cracking can cause other joint problems. They include a weak grip and loose ligaments.

Weak grip: Years of cracking your knuckles can lead to soft tissue damage that builds up over the years. This can result in fingers or toes that suffer from chronic inflammation and a weak grip. Some people can’t grasp things with their toes or fingers after decades of knuckle cracking. A weak grip is dangerous for both fingers and toes.

Overstretched ligaments: Routinely pulling on your digits can cause your ligaments to stretch beyond their capacity. After years of stretching, the ligaments can become weak and loose. This becomes a condition known as ligamentous laxity or ligament laxity. It causes chronic pain and swelling.



Image of woman with toe sprain pain

Loose ligaments can lead to foot problems like:

  • Flattened arches.
  • Ankle sprains.
  • Severe ligament injury.

If in Doubt, Don’t Crack

Even though cracking your knuckles probably won’t cause arthritis, it might lead to other chronic, painful conditions. If you want to stay on the safe side, stop cracking them. Your podiatrist can give you tips on breaking the habit.

Learn More About Your Feet at Shuman Podiatry

At Shuman Podiatry & Sports Medicine, we deal with joint and knuckle programs every day. If you’re concerned about your toe knuckles or anything else that’s foot-related, make an appointment today.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.