Dr Mohammed Abdullahi of the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, on Wednesday said habitual knuckle cracking impairs the functions of the hand.
Abdullahi said the habit may lead to swelling of the hand, lower grip strength, knuckle pads, and injuries.
He however said that it had no link with arthritis, but could lead to dislocation of fingers and overstretched ligaments.
The medical expert noted that though some people experience “therapeutic release” upon cracking their knuckles, the potential damage outweighs any psychological benefit.
“Habitual knuckle cracking is linked with hand swelling and reduced grip strength, suggesting that repeated act might gradually damage soft tissue in the hand.
“In some cases, the desire to crack could be an attempt to ease ligament stress that is already present,” he said.
Abdullahi added that the habitual knuckle cracking was also associated with other potentially damaging activities like repeated manual labor.
The medical expert explained that the joints, including those in the knuckles, are surrounded by a membrane called the synovial membrane, which forms a capsule around the ends of your bones.
He said the membrane contains synovial fluid, which acts as a lubricant and shock that absorbs, so that bones do not grind together when a person moves.
“When you crack your knuckles, or any other joint, it expands the space between your bones, creating negative pressure that draws synovial fluid into the new gap.
“This influx of synovial fluid is what causes the popping sound and feeling when you crack a knuckle.
“If you continually crack your knuckles, the synovial membrane and the surrounding ligaments will loosen, making it easier and easier for your joints to crack,” he warned.
Abdullahi stressed that habitual knuckle cracking was not forceful enough to cause the wear and tear associated with arthritis.
He advised people to limit the habit, so as not to cause long term damage to the joints.