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The major knuckles of the hand (encircled in red)
Anatomical terminology

The knuckles are the joints of the fingers. The word is cognate to similar words in other Germanic languages, such as the Dutch "knokkel" (knuckle) or German "Knöchel" (ankle), i.e., Knöchlein, the diminutive of the German word for bone (Knochen). Anatomically, it is said that the knuckles consist of the metacarpophalangeal[1] (MCP) and interphalangeal (IP) joints of the finger. The knuckles at the base of the fingers may be referred to as the 1st[1] or major knuckles while the knuckles at the midfinger are known as the 2nd[2] and 3rd, or minor, knuckles. However, the ordinal terms are used inconsistently and may refer to any of the knuckles.[3][4]


The physical mechanism behind the popping or cracking sound heard when cracking joints such as knuckles has recently been elucidated by cine MRI to be caused by tribonucleation as a gas bubble forms in the synovial fluid that bathes the joint.[5] Despite this evidence, many still believe it to be caused by synovial fluid filling the vacuum left by the joint's displacement.[6][7] In 2009, Donald L Unger was awarded the Ig Nobel for Medicine[8] for his informal experiment with knuckle cracking. For 50 years, he cracked the knuckles of one hand while not cracking the knuckles of the other during that time. He self-reported no issues with arthritis on either hand.[9]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Utah Mountain Biking; Thumb Sprain; First as metacarpo.
  2. ^ Second knuckle as thumb's interphalangeal, "anchor knuckle" as metacarpophalangeal
  3. ^ First knuckle as thumb's interphalangeal
  4. ^ "First knuckle as distal interphalangeal". Archived from the original on 2009-04-15. Retrieved 2009-12-20.
  5. ^ Kawchuk GN, Fryer J, Jaremko JL, Zeng H, Rowe L, Thompson R (2015) Real-Time Visualization of Joint Cavitation. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0119470.
  6. ^ Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, Knuckle Cracking and Arthritis
  7. ^ Brodeur R. (1995). "The audible release associated with joint manipulation". J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 18 (3): 155–64. PMID 7790795.
  8. ^ Ig Nobel Prize Winners for 2009[1]
  9. ^ Does knuckle cracking lead to arthritis of the fingers?[2]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Knuckle". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 883.