Cracking fingers - cracking fingers: causes and consequences

Cracking fingers - cracking fingers: causes and consequences

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When the fingers crack
Cracking fingers can be observed when one or more finger joints are moved passively (i.e. by external force) beyond the active range of motion, i.e. the range of motion that is possible through the muscles acting on the joint. Furthermore, the crackling of the fingers can be heard if the joint position is only changed after a long time. The cracking of the finger joints does not cause any pain, and is usually perceived as pleasant or relieving even by those affected. It can be done consciously as well as unconsciously.

Causes of cracking fingers

Theory I: Are gas bubbles the reason for cracking fingers?
The finger joints, like all "real" joints in the human body, have the same structure. The joint head and socket are enclosed by the joint capsule. The space created in this way is called the joint cavity. The two joint partners are separated from each other by the joint gap. The ligament and the surrounding muscles stabilize the joint.

The joint cavity and the gap are filled with a viscous fluid, the synovia. It increases the lubricity of the articular surfaces and helps to dampen vibrations in the joint. In addition, it transports nutrients into the articular cartilage and contains dissolved gas molecules. If the finger joints are suddenly stretched beyond a certain point, there is a sudden change in the pressure prevailing in the joint. The resulting negative pressure leads to the release of gases dissolved in the synovia. A gas bubble forms, the burst of which is perceived as a crack. It then takes a moment for the gas concentration in the synovial fluid to rise again, so that it is possible to crack your fingers again.

Glued sliding layers as the reason for cracking fingers

The fascia distortion model (FDM), a model of the emergency doctor and osteopath Dr. Stephen Typaldos D.O. The word is formed from the Latin terms "fascia" = bundle and "distorsio" = twist. It includes a diagnostic concept that pays special attention to the patient's body language, clinical appearance and anamnesis. The treatment then takes place manually.

The model attributes the “crackling noises” to changes in the position and tension of fascia near the joint. In medicine, the term fascia describes a part of the connective tissue that penetrates the human body as a connected network of tension. Fascia play an important role in immune defense and also form the basis for tissue healing processes. Furthermore, fasciae, like the synovia, have the task of absorbing and damping forces (“shockabsorber”). Excessively strong pressure or tension, usually in combination with a twisting, leads to deformation and thus to the loss of the ability to reduce vibrations. Pain typically occurs in the further course.

Cracking fingers are attributed to an impairment of the fascia in this model. The partially unconscious cracking of the fingers is regarded as self-therapy, with those affected repeatedly detaching the fascia from each other to relieve the symptoms. Often the actual location of the disturbance is not in the area of ​​the fingers, but rather extends to them. If the fixed region that was identified as the cause is now treated, an improved movement behavior should then appear. The need for self-therapy, i.e. cracking with the fingers, should no longer be as pronounced.

The cause of the finger cracking has been clearly clarified today
At the beginning of 2015, an international team of researchers led by main author Professor Greg Kawchuk from the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta (Canada) published a study in the specialist magazine "PLoS One", which finally clarified the phenomenon of finger cracking with the help of MRI scans Has.

If the finger is pulled hard enough, the joint gap widens and a gas-filled cavity in the synovial fluid (synovial fluid) very suddenly arises. "It's a bit like a vacuum is building up," report Professor Kawchuk and colleagues. Because the connection surfaces separate at once, there is not enough liquid available to fill the increasing volume and a cavity is created. The scientists were able to use MRI images to clearly assign the occurrence of the crack to this event, while the bladder regressed silently after the finger was released.

Symptoms of cracking fingers

Cracking fingers appear on both sides of the hands in most cases, but can also be supported on one side. Most sufferers report that the cracking occurs the first time they move after remaining in a flexed or rest position. In other cases, it is provoked by pulling the finger.

As a rule, most people are more disturbed by the noise and there are no additional symptoms. If pain occurs with cracking fingers or severe pain or restricted movement afterwards, a medical examination should be carried out.

Consequences of finger clicks

Since there is currently no evidence-based knowledge about the effects of the resulting forces when the cavity is formed, it cannot be said with certainty whether the finger cracking is harmless. The scientists led by Professor Greg Kawchuk suspect that minimal damage to the bones and joint complaints can actually occur here. In any case, it makes sense to see a doctor as soon as additional symptoms such as finger pain or functional restrictions arise.

The repeated, forced "overstretching" of a joint is a kind of stress for the supporting capsular ligament apparatus, the damage of which is accompanied by a loss of stability of the joint. If this is the case, the distribution of the forces acting in the joint changes and this can lead to disproportionate loading of one or even several joints.

Differential diagnosis

Pathological movement noises:

"Crunching noises": Often occurs as a result of advanced, degenerative changes in joints, for example "snowball crunching" as a typical noise for tendon overload damage.

"Rubbing noises": Often occur as a result of degenerative and inflammatory changes in the joints. Also offer information on overload damage.

"Snapping noises": Snapping occurs especially when the joints are unstable. The perceivable sounds can be caused by tendons that slide over a bone protrusion. (ps, fp)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Gregory N. Kawchuk et al .: Real-Time Visualization of Joint Cavitation, PLoS, (accessed September 4, 2019), PLoS
  • Raimond Igel: The fascia distortion model (according to Typaldos): The 6 disorders and their treatment, Karl F. Haug Verlag, MVS Medizinverlage Stuttgart GmbH & Co. KG, (accessed on 04.09.2019), thieme
  • Adalbert I. Kapandji: Functional anatomy of the joints, Thieme Verlag, 6th edition, 2016

Video: Why do your knuckles pop? - Eleanor Nelsen (August 2022).