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Knuckle Cracking: Bad for Bassists?

Cracking Knuckles

Q: I have a tendency to crack my knuckles, and my bass teacher really frowns on it. Do you have an opinion on this?

A: I’ve heard both sides of the story, and I crack my knuckles, and always have. So I decided to do some research. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Cracking your knuckles does not cause arthritis. That is a myth. For the most part, it is harmless. Here are some select parts of the articles that I read:

Although cracking your joints will not lead to arthritis, overzealous cracking can injure the ligaments that support those joints. That usually results in mild pain, which will go away if the knuckle-cracker takes a break from his noisy hobby. In severe cases, it can weaken one’s grip by loosening the tendons that attach muscle to bone.Washington Post

…it seems more likely to be a consequence of damage, rather than a cause.BBC

…there is a relationship between knuckle-cracking and hand swelling, loss of lower grip strength, ligament damage, soft tissue injuries and dislocation of tendons. This is really only the result of rapid, repeated stretching of ligaments, like what happens to major league pitchers. Risk is minimal for the rest of us, however.Advanced Physical Medicine

So it would appear an average knuckle cracker need not worry, but you might try to break the habit if it’s a constant. There’s no need to crack them every hour, for example.

If you feel the need it’s either psychological or there may be something else going on, in which case, you should get your hands looked at to make sure that you aren’t in the early stages of some form of arthritis.

Nothing wrong with a little pre-gig or shed warm up and crack, though.

What’s your take? Heard something else or have a different experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.