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.

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Leave a Reply to Firebird Tomonaga Cancel reply

  1. The brain releases endorphins after being conned that the release of pressure has eased your joints, therefor creating a small high when you crack your knuckles, thus forming a habit that offers a chemical reqard, however so slight. No it does not do damage to the avg. everyday knucle cracker.. yes it can really annoying to sit there and listen to a junky adminstering his habit reptively.. how ’bout I spit at your feet everytime you crack your knuckles? – grow up :)

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

    I always figured that meth would be the preferred choice, but I don’t play anywhere near like Damian. Maybe that’s what I’m missing! :)

  3. Gotta appreciate someone who does his research. Thanks

  4. Is the “noisy hobby” that WP is referring to cracking knuckles or bass playing? ;-)

  5. I thought this was on “Knuckle Dragging!” Never mind!

  6. That just made me want to crack!

  7. “I like it I’m not gonna crack”.

  8. Hahaaa! My 17yo bass playing son cracks everything! His neck, his elbows, his knuckles, his wrists, his knees. He’s a crack-a-holic! He does it just to freak people out hahaaa!

  9. so…. how many of you cracked your knuckles reading this?

  10. LOL I just cracked my knuckles reading that headline.

  11. It’s called cavitation. It’s a normal sound during the manipulation of joints. Don’t do it to much because you will cause instability/hypermobility in the joints of your hand/fingers. Bassplayers, especially double bassplayer, need strong joints.

    Martijn van Hoof.

    Manual Therapist
    Bassplayer/double bassplayer

  12. Reminded me of the empirical studies of a man called Donald Unger who systematically cracked the knuckles on his left hand and leaving his right knuckles free for 60 years. Cracking does not cause arthritis was the conclusion. And yes, he won the IG Nobel Health Prize for this!

    http://tech.mit.edu/V129/N41/ignobels.html

  13. Reminded me of the empirical studies of a man called Donald Unger who systematically cracked the knuckles on his left hand and leaving his right knuckles free for 60 years. Cracking does not cause arthritis was the conclusion. And yes, he won the IG Nobel Health Prize for this!

    http://tech.mit.edu/V129/N41/ignobels.html

  14. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdiiwvrZmow – knuckle cracking bassist. I don’t see an issue :)

  15. Just my own opinion: cracking knuckles inward toward the palm is okay. Outward, away from the palm, is not good.

  16. I crack before I get down and dirty…….ON the bass..i also do some tendon stretches..helps out a lot.

  17. I trust my chiropractor with my life and she would cracks my knuckles after fixing my back. When I crack my knuckles I think of it as a stretch.

  18. So, how long before Gruv Gear comes out with a precision knuckle cracking machine for bassists?

  19. I found that as I decrease my sugar intake, I don’t need to crack my knuckles as much if at all! Really!