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Joints That Pop and Crack Aren’t Always Injured

We’ve all heard it said that if you crack your knuckles, you will – sooner or later – pay the price: you will develop of arthritis. But the popping and cracking of joints, whether intentional or through natural movement, doesn’t always mean “bad.”

Dr. Aman Dhawan, an orthopedic sports medicine specialist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, explains that sounds emanating from our joints aren’t always indicative of injury. “Joint sounds are not an indicator of health or lack of health,” Dr. Dhawan says.

In fact, it is common and natural for your joints to make sounds; for your joints to “talk to you.” These natural sounds occur every day and while you do routine things, like walking up and down stairs or bending over to pick up objects.

Dr. William Shiel, the chief editor and co-founder of, describes these common and natural sounds this way:

“The symptom of joint cracking is described differently by different people, while nevertheless representing the same condition. Various descriptions for the same process include ‘popping,’ ‘exploding,’ ‘noise,’ ‘snapping’ and ‘creaking’ of a joint.”

With regard to cracking your knuckles, Dr. Dhawan states that there is a lack of medical evidence to support the idea knuckle-cracking causes damage to the joint, whether that damage is cartilage wear, the loosening of the joints, or the foundation for developing arthritis. “It may be irritating to the listener,” he says, “but that’s a separate issue…There is really no evidence that it causes any damage.

If joint noises are unusual or come with acute pain and swelling, then this may be an indicator that we should be concerned. In these instances, you could be looking at anything from a broken bone or cartilage tear to joint dislocation or another malady.

But the “popping” or “cracking” of the joints during everyday activities doesn’t need to be considered a bad thing. It’s just our joints talking to us.

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