Q. How bad is it for kids to crack their knuckles?
A. "I was one of those people who grew up as a knuckle cracker, and as a child I thought it was going to put me at risk for arthritis," says Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park. "I fell victim to that myth."
Adesman's adult hands are just fine, and the limited studies that have been done show that knuckle cracking is a benign activity in terms of future arthritis, he says. "This is one of the things we can be relatively reassuring about," he says.
Some research does show there may be an eventual weakening of grip strength in frequent knuckle crackers, Adesman says.
The tendency to crack knuckles may also be seen as a nervous habit. Parents should be sensitive to the possible social impact of the activity, Adesman says. Other kids may find constant cracking annoying, for instance. And there's a time and a place to crack your knuckles, Adesman says. During class, for instance, isn't one of them.
Kids may crack their knuckles because of the novelty or fun factor, Adesman says. "It's kind of cool. They like the sound it makes," he says. There may be a sense of relief, loosening and increased mobility directly afterward, he says.
Adesman stopped cracking his knuckles decades ago. "I don't remember why I did it," he says. "You don't really see it in adult circles."