Knuckle Poppers?

Do we have any perpetual joint/knuckle poppers out there?

I’ve been popping all of my joints for a very long time and have done so with a relatively clear conscious because there are no studies that show a stronger correlation to knuckle popping and arthritis than not knuckle popping and arthritis. However, I have heard that if you pop your knuckles, you may lose some strength because you’re repeatedly stretching out the tendons (or something to that affect). Now that I’m trying to get back into guitar playing, my fingers are definitely weaker than they used to be and I’m hoping that it’s just because they’re out of shape but of course in the back of my mind, I’m concerned that my knuckle popping has made them even weaker than they should be.

So basically, I’m curious to know if we have any knuckle poppers that do or don’t have this issue and or if someone had the same issues and had to stop popping their knuckles. The easy answer is “just stop since you’re not sure” but if you’re like me, you know that popping your joints gets easier and easier the more you do it. So a lot of the time, my knuckles pop just from clenching my first or something (and of course it’s almost a subconscious thing to effortlessly pop a knuckle that feels like it needs it. Of course it’s possible to stop but it would be a lot of uncomfortable effort and if possible, I’d like to know if it’s even a valid concern before I do go through that.

I know this is probably a pretty strange question but any input would be appreciated.


Anecdotally, I’ve been regularly popping my knuckles for over three decades, and never had any issue like you’ve described. I’ve had long breaks from guitar in the past, but during those times I was usually semi-regularly spending time at the gym or at least placing moderate demands on my hand strength with household tasks.

I tend to pop the interphalangeal joints a lot more than I pop the metacarpal-phalangeal joints.

Awesome, thank you! I know it’s not scientific but it’s still comforting :slight_smile:

I do this all the time. It’s a bad habit I wish I could quit. I’m sure it’s a common excuse among us poppers, but I only have discomfort when I feel the need to pop and can’t for some socially polite reason (in pre pandemic times, being at a movie theatre etc).

One interesting thing - about a year ago I started having some pain in the index metacarpophalangeal joint of my fretting hand. I’d stopped playing guitar regularly at this point (after over 20 years of rarely going a more than a few days here and there without playing for at least an hour or so each day). I figured I’m getting old (38, going on 70 as I like to say) and lots of people on my mom’s side of the family have arthritis. Plus I’m a web developer and type all day long. I thought I should just live with it as par for the course.

So when I joined CtC in January or February or whenever it was this year, I’ve been doing about 30 - 90 minutes of playing, most days. I don’t remember exactly when it stopped, but all that pain is gone. I’ll include the typical medical disclaimers of not being a doctor and blah blah blah, but thought I should add it. It’s a little off topic, but I wonder if there are any studies of regular guitar players categorically avoiding (or not) arthritis? It seems like most of our heroes that fall into the “really good/virtuoso” category and live into their 60’s or 70’s or beyond can still tear it up. At least to the point where I’d think they’d have serious trouble playing what we hear from them at that age if they in fact had joint issues. Hmmmm.

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This is a really crappy answer, but hey ho - if you are concerned about the possibilities of causing harm, then stop doing it. As for hand joints ‘needing’ it? I have no idea, but I would hazard a guess that they could go without. The only way to determine whether it makes you hands better or worse is to stop doing it for a good length of time and find out. With any sort of bodily sensation, knuckle cracking can be a hard habit to ‘crack’ (pun intended!) I think because you can’t do it all the time (if I crack my knuckles I might not be able to do it again for about an hour) - theres an anticipation/opportunity/release cycle attached to it. Like biting your fingernails - very hard to stop and becomes somewhat addictive.

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I pop my knuckles all the time. No issues with grip or strength.

I will pop my knuckles before I have to do anything that involves heavy strain on my fingers, as they will randomly pop when strained or doing heavy work which I don’t really like.

They tend to pop on their own when stretching before playing, too.

I’m in my 50’s and have done this since I was a kid, no issues. Fingers still work fine. No arthritis. No knuckle pain.

I do a ton of grip strengthening most days either with climbing or lifting and I stopped cracking my knuckles years ago (10+?). Definitely felt like it made the joint a bit lax, which I found unsettling.

You said it made the joint feel a bit lax? Can you elaborate? It sounds to me like stopping the knuckle popping relaxed the joint but that would be a good thing right?

@SomeDudeOnline it would probably not be an issue if you’re doing more “finesse” motions (i.e. playing guitar) which is more relevant to this conversation. My hang up is more about hard gripping, which IME cracking made the joint feel more unstable and kind of tweaky during and after loading, which then affected my guitar playing. At this point I just avoid it, but that’s my perspective as someone that does a good deal of grip work.

I do it all the time and other than not having functionality in my fingers and having to wipe my ass with my wife’s hand it’s fine.

I do it a fair amount, in various parts of my body. My logic is if it was a bad thing to do I wouldn’t have an itch to do it. But idk…

There is literally a buildup of drive to do it. So I can only assume it’s natural.
And for me it actually makes movements feel more stable. As if the joints are now more equalised in pressure.

I like that logic…if I want to do it, must be good for me. :dizzy_face:

Love it! Last time I thought that, I got arrested for indecent exposure! Lol

Edit:jks :rofl:

lol when an off topic thread goes WAY off topic hahahahaha

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On a serious note, is there any scientific data on this subject?

I’m always a little skeptical of the conclusions drawn on studies like this:

I didn’t read the whole article, but the summary mentions the knuckle cracking group had more swelling of joints and lower grip strength (though no greater arthritis). It also says that this group had an association with manual labor, smoking, nail biting and alcohol consumption. Couldn’t any one of those things have been the culprit? Well, maybe not nail biting :slight_smile: but you get the point. Is it the knuckle cracking, or some other lifestyle thing that resulted in the lower grip strength?

I’ll do my own study. I’m a pretty boring person that doesn’t do much “fun” stuff. So, no smoking or alcohol for me. Nail biting is out too, cuz then I can’t play classical anymore. Unless typing counts as manual labor (web developer by trade), I don’t do that either. I’ll keep cracking my knuckles BUT I will also actively work on my grip strength. I’ll report findings in 40 years, if I’m still around :slight_smile:

Yeah obvious I don’t mean if I want to do it, do it.
There is a natural drive to do it, like scratching an itch.

And don’t say your drive to do some drugs is natural as thats an outside addiction.
Joint popping is a natural quirk. Like picking your nose, or itching your butt. They feel very self regulatory

To add to this, in my elbows and thumb specifically, they can get to a point that it feels uncomfortable to apply force throughout the full range of motion without clicking/popping them. And then things feel much more even.

Perhaps its lack of hydration or something else. But it genuinely feels smoother and more stable after giving them a crack at times. And it builds up over time, it feels incredibly natural and comes across to me as a form of regulation of the body just like scratching an itch, picking at your finger nails etc…