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Forget what your mother has been telling you for decades: that cracking your knuckles will lead to horrific gnarled hands, complete with swollen joints riddled by arthritis.

Much like the ol’ “Make that face and it’ll stay that way!” threat, cracking your knuckles has never been proven to cause arthritis or even lead to any significant health problems down the line.

Here are the scientific basics: Cracking your knuckles is essentially stretching the space between your bones. That space is filled with something called synovial fluid, a liquid that reduces friction in joints when you move. It also contains gas — nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide, to be specific.

When you pop or crack a knuckle, the expanding space creates negative pressure, which sucks in the synovial fluid. Bubbles form due to the various gases in the liquid, and then when the bubbles collapse, they pop, resulting in the “cracking” noise we all know and love (or cringe at, depending on your point of view).

Gregory Kawchuk, University of Alberta/PLOS Media

But is that bad for you? Most medical personnel and studies have been non-conclusive, painting knuckle-cracking as a harmless, strangely relieving exercise. Unless you’re experiencing pain when you’re cracking your joints, you’re probably OK to keep doing it.

As for your neck, your back and whatever else you may crack, you may want to check with your doctor if you’re concerned about what ramifications your habit may have. Check out the video above for further information.