Why do I want to pop/crack my knuckles/joints?

I’m sure a place like this is bombarded with questions about whether popping knuckles, cracking joints, or popping crackjoints is good for you or why it happens. These things do not interest me. What I want to know is why people (including myself) like to do it?

Motivations for bodily behavior are generally either pleasure-based or compulsions. I don’t think cracking my neck or popping my knuckles (I’m a near expert at popping every joint where it is possible) actually feels good, it just… feels. Surely there aren’t nerve endings in your synovial fluid, so it couldn’t feel good or bad to do it.

I think if you asked a bunch of people, the most common response would be that it loosens the joint or increases flexibility, but I’m unsure that this is a true motivation and not a side-effect. It’s perfectly possible that I crack my joints for compulsive reasons, or just to have something to do.

Another possibility is that the popping sensation sends a “whoa-boy” signal to your brain to alert you to something unexpected happening, and we get addicted to that response.

I realize just now that whatever it is that makes me want to pop joints, I don’t get any kind of satisfaction when I pop the joints in my metacarpal region (spinning my wrists around).

Reading this thread title made me want to pop my knuckles.

I pop my neck every morning - I’m sure its bad for me, but now I need to.

Same with my fingers - if they don’t pop, it gets sore.

same here … I started popping my knuckles in my teens, I broke a wrist one summer and had my hand and forearm casted, and they ached … pretty much as soon as I got the cast off, I had been rubbing my hands, and popped my knuckles, and it felt GOOD!, so I have popped them ever since.

Reason #11: I get to pretend I’m a chiropractor.

“Now fingers, take a deep breath…”


“Still okay?”

crack my back all the time… makes me feel a whole lot better

For me it’s the release of tension that arises from a freaky combination of hyperflexibility and muscles that tend to want to lock up. As the muscles tense, for any particular joint at least one muscle in an opposing pair will be pulling harder than its counterpart, which makes the joint slightly askew and causes synovial fluid to be displaced to one side. Cracking the joint causes a sudden shift in synovial fluid, and the popping noise comes from the cavitation of gas bubbles released by this action when the localised pressure in the fluid drops suddenly. It feels good because the dull ache of a tense joint suddenly disappears.

Sometimes a big joint cracking will shock my body by twanging a nerve in the area (especially in the neck) and produce a pain spike that is intense enough to white-out my senses for a fraction of a second and produce an endorphin rush, but at the same time is too brief to be experienced as proper pain. Bonus.

There is a school of thought that says that some joint cracking causes long-term problems by stretching the ligaments to the point of hypermobility, so beware. Not sure about the acceleration of arthritis though - the 2009 Ig Nobel prize for medicine went to a doctor who cracked the knuckles on his left hand regularly for 50 years, while he left his right hand to its own devices (cite).

I read that as ‘balls’ originally.


Made me laugh. Congrats!

It releases pressure for me at least for a little while. I get a whole lot of tension on the left-hand side of my upper back just below the should blade when I am under lots of stress. It isn’t horribly painful but it is uncomfortable and interferes with my state of calm. There are certain chairs, especially office chairs, that tip backwards and if I position myself just right, I can throw myself backwards and get anywhere from a small crack to an incredible one. An incredible one doesn’t happen that often but it causes instant relation and mild euphoria so I sometimes try to do it several times a day. The tension will come back in a few hours but it helps greatly for a while.

Cracking joints is one of my favorite things to do (I mentioned it specifically in an early thread I started called “The Best Way to Relax,” iirc). I crack as many joints as I possibly can every single day. I understand that there are no nerves that can actually make it feel “good” or “bad,” but, damn, it just feels so…I dunno…soothing.

This may be slightly sadistic of me, but I love cracking other people’s joints for them. I do it to my wife all the time.

There are certain chairs, especially office chairs, that tip backwards and if I position myself just right, I can throw myself backwards and get anywhere from a small crack to an incredible one.

I realized long ago that those jr. high and high school classrooms chairs (the ones with the small desk attached) were perfect for cracking the upper vertaebra. Just put your hands against the edge of the small desk portion in front of you, your back against the curve of the chair, and push. Worked every time (and felt GREAT every time).

What is this idea that joint popping can’t feel good exactly? Why then do all these people do it? I repudiate this claim that it doesn’t feel good. Of course it does. Whether or not the fluid has nerves is not the point. Billions know that it feels good. I assume it’s from the release of pressure on something inside the joint.

When I go to a church men’s meeting, there will be a point at the end when everyone will stand up and do some final prayer/instruction/reminder, and I have to concentrate to keep from swinging my legs like Elvis so I can pop my knees. Sometimes while teaching I find that I’m simpering along like a 5-year old, but I’m really twisting my ankles out so they’ll pop.