Should you crack your joints?

man stretching cracking his knuckles

We’ve all heard the old wives’ tale that cracking your knuckles or popping your joints will cause arthritis. But is it true? The Roper St. Francis Healthcare orthopaedic team weighs in on this urban legend — and when it’s time to see a joint expert.

Joint cracking: Why does it happen?

Whether it’s a nervous habit or a way to relieve pressure, cracking joints is second nature to many of us. But what causes our joints to pop? It turns out the reasons are relatively common.

Is joint cracking dangerous?

Now that we understand why our joints pop, it’s important to know the impact on our health. Does cracking your joints cause arthritis? The short answer: no, it does not.

“Most of the time, joint popping and cracking is completely harmless — and even natural,” says Sawyer Langston, a PA-C in Orthopaedic Surgery at Roper St. Francis Healthcare. “However, if you experience pain associated with the popping and cracking, this could be due to an underlying condition that should be evaluated by an orthopedist.”

Painful joint popping can signify advancing osteoarthritis, tendinitis or bursitis, while painful tendon popping can be an indicator of increasing inflammation. To avoid further injury or a tendon rupture, Ms. Langston recommends seeing an orthopaedic expert immediately.

Boost your joint health

To keep your joints in tip-top shape, take a few proactive steps to help maintain your joint health:

Remember the threshold rule: No medical intervention is needed if your joint cracking and popping isn’t impacting your daily activities. However, if you’re in pain — it’s time to take action.

“If your cracking, popping or snapping sounds are painful or causing swelling, schedule an appointment with an orthopedist,” says Ms. Langston. “Our team is here to help you protect and care for your joints at every stage of life.”

Find a doctor

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopaedic experts, please call (843) 402-CARE or visit