What Causes The Cracking Sound
This is one of the most interesting aspects of knuckle cracking because most people would never guess what causes the cracking sound. Around all of your knuckles is something called synovial fluid. The synovial fluid is very important to the knuckles.
It serves to lubricate the joints and provides nutrients that the joints need. The synovial fluid surrounds all the joints in your body not just your knuckles. It also helps to dissolve gasses, including nitrogen.
When you crack your knuckles, you are stretching the area where the synovial fluid is. This creates a negative pressure in the space, which allows the gas to seep in. The cracking sound you hear is a tiny pocket of gas from the synovial fluid bursting.
Study Conclusions On Whether Knuckle Cracking Causes Arthritis
There have been a few studies over the years that considered whether or not cracking knuckles caused arthritis. One study found that there was no increase of hand arthritis among knuckle crackers, however, knuckle cracking was related to hand swelling and lower grip strength.
Another study indicated that while knuckle cracking was not associated with arthritis, it was associated with damage to ligaments that surround the joint and dislocation of tendons. While cracking your knuckles is not linked to causing arthritis, there may be a connection to soft tissue injuries.
A study from 2011 looked at 215 people who had a hand X-ray within the past five years. It’s interesting that 20% of them were habitual knuckle-crackers. The good news for those folks is that they were at no greater risk for hand osteoarthritis and it didn’t matter how long they had been knuckle-crackers or how often they did it each day.
Why Do People Do It
Although many people follow his practice subconsciously, there are various reasons due to which people crack their knuckles. Here are some of the most common reasons due to which people crack their knuckles-
- Nervousness- Similar to curling hair and wringing hands, cracking knuckles is also a sign of nervousness that occupies your hands.
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- Stress- Some people use knuckle cracking as a diversion when they are stressed as a diversion to release the stress without causing any kind of harm.
- Sound- Not a very solid reason to practice something as knuckle practice but some people actually perform this activity just because they like the sound of it.
- Habit- It all starts with nervousness and stress and eventually turns into a habit due to which people find themselves cracking their knuckles unconsciously throughout the day for five times or more.
- For the feeling- Some people follow this practice for the kind of sensation it gives to the body and they think that it helps them to relieve the tension in their joints and increases its mobility.
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An Overview Of Knuckle Cracking
It is estimated that more than half the worlds population crack their knuckles. The habit can be conscious, or people can do it absentmindedly. Because of the sound it makes, it is easy to just assume that cracking your knuckles is bad for you.
However, that may not be the case. The fact is that most people who crack their knuckles dont understand what they are doing. It is a strange habit that people seem to frequently misunderstand.
But is cracking knuckles bad for you? Read on to find out.
Question: What Causes The Sound
Answer: Joints are covered by a capsule . Within the space of this capsule the synovial fluid is contained which acts as a lubricant and also contains nutrients for the adjacent bone surfaces. A variety of gases are continuously dissolved in this fluid. When one cracks a knuckle, the stretching of the capsule lowers the pressure inside the joint and creates a vacuum which is filled by the gas previously dissolved in the synovial fluid. This creates a bubble which then bursts producing the characteristic popping or cracking sound. It takes a while until these gases are re-dissolved in the synovial fluid which explains why knuckles cannot be re-cracked immediately.
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What You Should Know About Cracking Knuckles
Is cracking your knuckles bad for you? There isnt a clear yes or no answer to this question because it depends on the circumstances. In general, though, cracking your knuckles is considered mostly harmless.
The popping of the gas bubble caused by knuckle cracking does not seem to have any negative health effects. It may not necessarily be good for you, but it probably wont cause any harm or damage to the joints.
That being said, there are instances in which cracking your knuckles can be bad for you. Cracking your knuckles shouldnt cause any pain. If you are experiencing pain when you do it, it typically means that there is something wrong with the joint.
When your ligaments are damaged, it can be painful when you crack your knuckles. Painful knuckle cracking could also be the result of loose cartilage. It should generally be harmless, but cracking knuckles is bad when it causes pain.
Some studies have noted that chronic knuckle cracking can change the shape of the joint, as well, which is usually associated with some types of complications in the joints. If you do feel pain when you crack your knuckles, it could also be indicative of swollen ligaments.
The takeaway from all of this is that cracking your knuckles is generally not harmful. Again, it provides no health benefits, but it wont cause any harm in general either.
Knuckle Cracking: Annoying And Harmful Or Just Annoying
- By Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling
Knuckle cracking is a common behavior enjoyed by many. It can become a habit or a way to deal with nervous energy some describe it as a way to “release tension.” For some, its simply an annoying thing that other people do.
If youve ever wondered why stretching the fingers in certain ways causes that familiar noise or whether knuckle cracking is harmful in some way, read on. Despite how common it is, there has been considerable debate regarding where the noise comes from. Fortunately at least for those of us who are curious about it knuckle cracking has been the subject of a fair amount of research.
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Cracking Knuckles And Arthritis
There is currently no evidence that shows that cracking your knuckles causes arthritis. A California doctor performed an experiment on himself whereby he regularly cracked his knuckles on only one of his hands throughout his life. After decades of cracking, he evaluated x-rays of his hands and found no difference between his hands. This research was supported by a larger study that looked at a geriatric population with a known history of knuckle-cracking. The researchers found no correlation between knuckle-cracking and degenerative changes associated with arthritis.
Does Cracking Your Knuckles Really Cause Arthritis
- Does Cracking Your Knuckles Really Cause Arthritis?
It has long been believed by the general public that the sometimes satisfying, sometimes annoying habit of cracking your knuckles causes arthritis down the line, but does it really? The short answer is no. But before we get into the effects of cracking your knuckles, lets figure out exactly what is going on in your fingers.
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Heres Some Of What We Know About Knuckle Cracking
- The “cracking” of knuckle cracking seems to be produced by increasing the space between finger joints. This causes gas bubbles in the joint fluid to collapse or burst. Its a bit like blowing up a balloon and then stretching the walls of the balloon outward until it pops.
- The reason you cant crack the same knuckle or joint twice right away is that it takes some time for the gas bubbles to accumulate again in the joint.
- Cracking the knuckles is probably harmless. Although there have been occasional reports of dislocations or tendon injuries from overly vigorous knuckle cracking, such problems seem very much to be the exception and not the rule.
Cracking Sounds You Don’t Intend
People with arthritis of the hands or other conditions such as bursitis and tendinitis may feel snapping of the tendons and hear cracking sounds as the tendons can’t glide easily over the swollen tissues. These sounds and sensations may be why some think painless knuckle cracking might lead to arthritis. But they are not actually associated.
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Question: Are There Any Side Effects To Cracking Knuckles
There is no evidence that cracking knuckles causes any damage such as arthritis in the joints. However, a couple of reports in the medical literature are available associating knuckle cracking with injury of the ligaments surrounding the joint or dislocation of the tendons which improved with conservative treatment. A study found that after many years of cracking habitual knuckle crackers may have reduced grip strength compared with people not cracking their knuckles.
What Is Knuckle Cracking
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Something that most of us have done all our childhood and have been scolded for, knuckle cracking is pressing the finger joints in such a way that they produce a cracking or pop sound. This sound is produced when you pull or bend the finger joints which creates some space within the joint capsule by sucking the synovial joint.
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Should People With Arthritis Avoid Cracking Their Knuckles
While there is no evidence that supports the idea that cracking knuckles causes or worsens arthritis, chronic intentional knuckle cracking may lead to decreased grip strength. Additionally, there have been reports of painful and swollen joints, joint dislocation, tendon and ligament injuries, as well as soft tissue damage with knuckle cracking. Therefore, if you suffer with arthritis you may want to consider avoiding cracking your knuckles.
Osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis are two very different conditions, with a surprising number of similarities. Read on to learn the differences here.
So Can Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis
No and theres ample scientific research to back up why not. A 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine looked at 215 people between ages 50 and 89 who had had an X-ray of their right hand during the previous five years. The researchers found a similar incidence of knuckle OA in any one joint among people who said they cracked their knuckles and those who didnt, irrespective of how frequently or for how many years the person cracked.
Another study, published in a 1998 issue of the journal Arthritis and Rheumatology, was done by a single doctor who experimented on his own hands. Over his lifetime, he cracked the knuckles of one hand, but not the other. After decades of this behavior, he took X-rays and found that both hands had the exact same incidence of arthritis.
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What Causes The Sound When You Crack Your Knuckles
Your joints are surrounded by a capsule, or sac. The capsule contains a liquid called synovial fluid, which acts as a lubricant and prevents friction so the joints can move around smoothly. Synovial fluid contains gas bubbles.
When you crack your knuckles, you stretch the space between your finger joints, which causes the bubbles to burst and create that distinctive popping sound.
The reason you cant crack the same knuckle or joint twice in a row is because it takes some time for the gas bubbles to accumulate again in the joint.
Quick Dose: Can You Get Arthritis From Cracking Your Knuckles
If a friend told you cracking your knuckles causes arthritis, they might have just been searching for a nice way to get you to stop the habit.
The truth is, there is no connection between cracking your knuckles and arthritis or any other long-term health problem.
When you crack your knuckles, the popping noises, or crepitus, result from gas bubbles in the fluid that helps lubricate your joints. The bubbles pop when you pull the bones apart, either by stretching the fingers or bending them backward. It releases some endorphins that help reduce pain, but otherwise, its thought to be a harmless habit that doesnt signal any type of health problem.
Eric M. Ruderman, MD, professor of medicine, associate chief, clinical affairs, Division of Rheumatology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Clinical Practice Director, Rheumatology, Northwestern Medical Group
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What Happens When I Crack My Knuckles
Remember that chapter on bones from that anatomy class you took in high school? Here’s a quick recap. A joint is the point where two or more bones meet. Ligaments connect the bones to one another and a joint capsule surrounds it. Joint capsules have natural lubricants to help joints move smoothly. When you crack your knuckles, you pull the joint apart and expand the joint capsule. It forces gasses to release, resulting in that satisfying pop sound you hear when you’ve cracked your knuckles.
The reason why cracking your knuckles feels good is because it stretches the joint and stimulates the nerve endings. Repetitive and intentional joint cracking won’t cause cartilage damage or arthritis, but it may lead to other serious issues like instability within the joint and a loss of grip strength or hand function. If you’ve ever cracked your knuckles and felt pain, it could indicate loose cartilage or injured ligaments.
Cracking your knuckles can become a habit, and habits can be hard to break. My best advice is to find another go to when you want to crack your knuckles. It could be twiddling a pencil or coin between your fingers or talking a walk. Find somethingthat works for youto keep your hands busy.
Get a grip on your knuckle-cracking once and for all.
Commonly Asked Questions About Cracking Your Knuckles
There is no definitive answer to this question either. If you ask different knuckle crackers why they do it, you are likely to get varying answers. However, many people say that their joints feel looser and more mobile after cracking the knuckles. There could be some science behind this. Still, a lot of people crack their knuckles because they find the sound to be satisfying. Others say that their joints just feel better after they crack their knuckles. Many people become lifelong knuckle crackers starting from childhood. They may have found the sound funny and it simply turned into a habit.
The sound you hear when cracking your knuckles isnt a sound at all. Its a small bubble of gas that bursts when the joint is being stretched. The sound of knuckles cracking can differ widely as well. It can sound like a dull pop or a sharper cracking.
Up to this point, there have been no side effects to knuckles cracking found. However, you may experience side effects when there is an underlying joint issue. For example, if you have a damaged tendon or loose ligaments, cracking your knuckles can be painful. After a while, the knuckle can begin to swell. Chronic knuckle cracking may also lead to misshapen joints in rare instances.
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If You Crack Your Knuckles Dont Worry Too Much About Getting Arthritis But The Habit Isnt Harmless
Ignoring generations of parents whove warned that knuckle cracking is bad for you, between 20 and 54 percent of Americans continue to engage in this annoying nervous habit. Many have been reassured by repeated clinical reports over the decades that there is no strong evidence that knuckle cracking causes arthritis. A 2018 Harvard Medical School blog went so far as to pronounce the practice harmless.
Harmless is overstating it, however, argue experts who have studied the fine print of the research. Even as theres no strong link to arthritis specifically osteoarthritis, the degeneration of the cartilage cushioning the ends of bones cracking knuckles, they conclude, may still harm your hands.
Seattle neurosurgeon Rod Oskouian is the most recent researcher to jump into this small but lively tributary of mainstream science, as co-author of a 2018 review of knuckle-cracking studies in the journal Clinical Anatomy.
Oskouian and his three colleagues pored over 26 sometimes-contradictory papers regarding the mechanisms and effects of knuckle cracking, beginning with a 1911 German treatise titled On the Dispute About Joint Pressure. He did so, he said, after becoming fascinated by the universal inability of his students through the years to explain what makes that cracking noise.
But that still doesnt give knuckle-crackers a pass especially not if they do it a lot and for a long time, or have a preexisting problem.
What Happens When You Crack Your Fingers
Researchers have been able to put these hypotheses to bed by discovering what exactly is going on when you snap-crackle-pop your fingers and knuckles. There is actually a medical term for cracking your joints, and its called articular release meaning you are releasing a sensation of pressure, creating relief after cracking the joint. Youre not breaking anything nothing is detaching.
When you crack your fingers, you are stretching the joint past its degree of usual rotation, but not past its anatomic barrier. In other words, you need something else to push it to that point, such as using your other hand to pull back the fingers or to squeeze the knuckles.
Researchers have reported that the cracking sound is due to a sudden release of gaseous bubbles from fluid in the joint. This mixture of gas and liquid is thought to be what causes the feeling of pressure in the first place.
When the joint is cracked, the pressure is released which leaves a feeling of relief, as well as a more comfortable range of motion. Most people dont feel this pressure in their fingers or other joints, so they have difficulty understanding what that pressure feels like.
And because it doesnt feel like pain, its difficult to describe the feeling to someone else. Suffice it to say that the pressure gives the sensation of a slight tension, and the tension is relieved when the joint is pushed or pulled, which often creates this cracking sound.
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