Is Cracking Your Bones Bad For You
Whether intentionally or unintentionally, most of us have cracked a joint before. And if you cracked your joints a lot as a kid, a parent probably told you it was going to destroy all your bones. But lets hold up for a minute is cracking your bones or joints actually all that bad for you?
Is Age A Factor In Joint Cracking
Age can contribute to joint cracking. As you age, your joints make more noise as the cartilage wears down. You do not need arthritis to have joint cracking with age.
You may only notice the noise when you do certain movements or in certain joints. Through strengthening muscles around those joints, symptoms can often be relieved.
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.
You May Like: How Do I Know If I Have Knee Arthritis
What The Research Says About Knuckle Cracking
Several studies have been done to determine if knuckle cracking is associated with arthritis. To date, no link has been found.
In one report, researchers from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences examined a group of 215 people. Twenty percent of them said they cracked their knuckles regularly.
Results showed 18.1 percent of those participants who cracked their knuckles and 21.5 percent of those who didnt had arthritis in their hands. The investigators concluded that the chance of having arthritis was about the same in both groups.
In 1998, Dr. Donald Unger performed an informal study that was published as a letter to the editor in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism. As part of his experiment, the doctor cracked the knuckles on his left hand at least twice a day for 50 years, while leaving the knuckles on his right hand alone to serve as a control.
Dr. Unger estimated that the knuckles on his left hand were cracked at least 36,500 times. In his letter, he concluded that after 50 years, neither of his hands showed symptoms of arthritis, and there were no differences between the two hands.
The results of a study published in 2017 agreed with Dr. Ungers conclusions. Researchers found knuckle crackers had the same level of physical function as those who didnt crack their knuckles.
While research overwhelming suggests that knuckle cracking doesnt lead to arthritis, the following can increase your risk of developing the condition:
- a previous joint injury
Does Popping Your Knuckles Give You Arthritis
No this shouldn’t result in Arthritis but it may result into muscular damage or even joint imflammation of the affected area.
The reason people associate knuckle cracking with arthritis is because it makes a cracking noise and if something cracks it must be being damaged However The truth is that nothing is being cracked and the Cracking of your knuckles does not cause arthritis. A Joint is any place that the ends of two bones meet. Where the bones come together they have a covering of “articular cartilage”. This is surrounded by the “joint capsule”, Inside of which there is synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is the lubricant for the joint and also serves as a source of nutrients for the cells that look after the cartilage.
Synovial fluid has dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide within it. When the right pressure is applied to a joint, the area inside the joint capsule expands, however the expansion is limited by how much synovial fluid is contained in the joint. Synovial fluid cannot expand unless pressure inside the joint capsule drops and the dissolved gases can escape out of the fluid. The cracking sound comes from the gases rapidly being released from the fluid.
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.
What Causes Neck Cracking And Popping
The snapping or grinding of your neck may be caused by:
Synovial fluid changes. The synovial fluid between your joints lubricates movement, and when the pressure changes in this fluid, it creates gaseous bubbles. According to a 2015 study, the creation of these bubbles makes a cracking or popping sound.
Ligament or tendon movement. When tendons and ligaments move over bone, they can make a snapping sound that is heard when you move your joints.
Bone grinding. If the cartilage in the joints has worn down enough, the grinding or cracking sound you hear may be due to the bones grinding against each other.
Read Also: Remedy For Arthritis In Fingers
Is It Okay To Crack My Joints
When cracking your fingers, toes, shoulders, elbows, back, or neck, the sense of relief is achieved when that tension is released. The joint feels relaxed again, which helps to alleviate stress in the body.
There is actually no evidence that cracking your fingers is harmful or can cause damage. On the contrary, some researchers have discovered a lower incidence of arthritis in people who do crack their fingers.
This continues to be studied to determine whether this is a coincidence, or whether cracking your fingers actually helps prevent arthritis from developing. That said, if you dont feel any natural tension in your hands or joints, dont try to crack them, because you may actually cause damage to your tendons or ligaments.
The Research: Is Cracking Your Back Bad For You
As we mentioned above, studies have shown that cracking your joints really doesnt have any adverse or beneficial effects on your bones or joints unless its causing pain.
For years, the idea has been circulated that if you pop your joints frequently, youll end up with arthritis. Its unclear when, how or why this myth started circulating, all we know is that, despite growing amounts of research to the contrary, people still believe the old wives tale.
Still not convinced?
Well, to prove it, were going to dive into some of the research that has been compiled on this topic over the years, starting with a brave man named Dr. Donald Unger.
Dr. Unger took science into his own hand after he grew tired of the renowned authorities in his life, him that cracking his knuckles would lead to arthritis of the fingers. He popped the knuckles in his left hand at least twice for 50 years, comparing the difference between the knuckles he cracked and those he hadnt.
At the end of his five-decade-long experiment, Dr. Unger found that there was no apparent difference” in the knuckles of his hands and that there is no apparent relationship between knuckle cracking and the subsequent development of arthritis of the fingers.
In another study by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, researchers looked at 250 people ages 50-89, 20% of whom popped their knuckles on a regular basis.
Don’t Miss: Are Eggs Bad For Psoriatic Arthritis
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.
Why Does Your Back Crack
There are a number of a reasons that your back can crack, but its believed to typically the result of gases like nitrogen and carbon dioxide being put under pressure in the joints of your spine and forming bubbles.
Notice we said typically. Heres the thing: no one is exactly sure why your joints pop when you put pressure on them.
Way back in the day , two doctors at St. Thomas Hospital in London tried to figure out why joints crack. To do this, they tied a string around the fingers of several volunteers fingers and pulled until they heard the knuckle crack and captured it all using x-ray images.
In the end, they found that a popping sound occurs when two joint surfaces are pulled apart with enough tension to cause a rapid drop in pressure within the synovial fluid and forms a gaseous bubble in the cavity.
This conclusion has been hotly disputed over the years because, 24 years after it was reached, researchers performed a second study using similar methods and decided that it was the gas bubble in the joint bursting, not forming, that made the tell-tale popping sound. The devil is in the details, right?
The results? Kawchuck said his findings the original 1947 study.
Well to put it simply, your joints make a cracking sound when a bubble forms. Typically, this happens when tension mounts in a joint to the point where synovial fluid rapidly accumulates and cavitation occurs.
Heres another, closer look at a joint cracking using ultrasound technology:
You May Like: Remedy For Arthritis In Lower Back
Question: If You Have Arthritis Can Cracking Knuckles / Joints Make It Worse
Answer: No. However theoretically knuckle cracking in patients with weak or damaged joints due to arthritis could potentially lead more easily to ligament injury or acute trauma to the joints.
Founded in 1998, the Arthritis Center at Johns Hopkins is dedicated to providing quality education to patients and healthcare providers alike.
Neck Or Back Cracking: Leave It To The Pros
What about neck and back cracking? Thanks to our sedentary lifestyles of sitting at our desks all day and our penchant for staring down at our phones, which leads to text neck, we may find ourselves having neck or back pain. Somehow, the feeling of release you get after a good crack seems to make it better .
While its probably okay to occasionally self-crack your neck or back, dont have a friend do it for you, because they could apply too much pressure and cause injury. When youre talking about your spine, you want to be careful so only get your back or neck adjusted from a licensed chiropractor or physical therapist.
Even then, there has been research indicating neck manipulations could in rare cases lead to stroke, so make sure you tell your practitioner, if you are at an increased risk of stroke. And be sure to talk to your health care provider, if you have any concerns about the risks of such procedures.
The evidence of whether or not cracking your neck can cause damage is fairly inconclusive, says Raymond J. Hah, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at the USC Spine Center of Keck Medicine and assistant professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School. There is no evidence that cracking your neck or back is a risk factor for disc degeneration.
Recommended Reading: Rheumatoid Arthritis Edema
So Why Does It Feel Relieving When You Crack Your Back Or Joints In General
Well, since scientists arent exactly sure why joints crack in the first place, research as to why it feels good is pretty limited. However, there are a few theories on the matter:
One reason could be that movement in general helps reduce pain. Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall developed what is now known as the Gate Control theory in 1965 which, in a nutshell, argues that non-painful input closes that gates to painful input and keeps it from traveling through the central nervous system. Some have argued that simply moving a specific location of your back thats hurting could be enough to block pain signals from reaching your brain providing temporary relief.
Another reason could be that people interpret the popping sound that comes from joints as a sign that what theyre doing is helping. In a 2011 study, researchers found that, when people hear an audible sound coming from their joints, they typically associate the crack with a physical feeling of release and relief, even if the adjustment didnt do much.
That said, stretching your back in order to crack it can provide a real feeling of relief for many people who spend much of their day sitting. This is because many of the muscles that support the spine can grow stiff and tense after long periods of inactivity and stretching them, even if it’s done to inadvertently crack your back, can feel really good.
How Psa Weakens Bones
The tough truth: Chronic inflammation from PsA means you are at greater risk for developing osteoporosis. The inflammatory state is associated with bone loss, says Linda A. Russell, M.D., a rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Some patients with psoriatic arthritis also get spondylitis, a type of arthritis in the spine that causes stiffness. This condition can increase the risk for vertebral fractures.
Bone loss or weakening caused by PsA goes up with age, according to researchers the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, who found that bone erosions in the dominant hand of people with PsA nearly doubled between the ages of 40 and 60. Meanwhile, the number of bone spurs went up from 7.5 to nearly 12.
Other research suggests that psoriasis itself may have an underlying effect on bone. In fact, when researchers compared imaging results from 101 people with psoriatic arthritis, they detected substantially more erosions and bone spurs in those who had psoriasis for at least 20 years compared to those whose psoriasis was less than 10 years in duration.
You May Like: What Does The Rash From Psoriatic Arthritis Look Like
Can Cracking Your Joints Cause Arthritis
According to John Hopkins Medicine, there is “no evidence that cracking knuckles causes any damage such as arthritis in joints”.
Typically, joint cracking is not thought to be a sign of arthritis or a form of the condition developing.However, even studies that found no link between arthritis and joint cracking did find links to other joint changes developing over time.
Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Robert Klapper says knuckle cracking itself does not harm your fingers, neck, ankles, or other joints directly, but it could signal a pre-existing condition in some cases.
If you experience discomfort while cracking, there could be an underlying condition that is being aggravated by twisting and pressing the joint.
Why Do Joints Crack
Joint cracking can have different causes. Its common and is usually not an indication of a bone health condition. Exactly what causes the cracking or popping noise is the subject of many studies, but its still not completely understood.
Some natural causes of joint cracking are:
- Sounds from muscle activity. As the muscle stretches, it can cause joint noises. For example, a tendon may snap in and out of place while you are stretching, exercising, dancing, or moving repetitively in your job.
- Cartilage loss. This can occur from aging, which can roughen joint surfaces, resulting in joint noise with movement.
- Arthritis. This can also cause cartilage degeneration and can result in joint noise.
Don’t Miss: How To Relieve Ra Pain
Does It Cause Arthritis
It’s unlikely that joint cracking is a significant cause of arthritis. Joint cracking is usually painless, and so long as it does not cause pain, most doctors agree that you are unlikely to be doing any harm. There are some conditions that can cause joint cracking that need to be addressed, but these tend to cause symptoms of pain.
If you have joint cracking that causes pain, you should be evaluated by your doctor. Otherwise, you are not likely to be causing any problems, including arthritis, by your joint cracking. When the noise is coming from your joints are associated with pain, there could be sources of the pain including loose cartilage in the joint, swelling, and other problems that may need to be addressed.
Possible Changes In The Hand
Research suggests people who often crack their knuckles may have:
- More swelling in their hands7
- A weaker grip7
- A slightly larger range of motion in their hands8,9while this seems like a good thing, hypermobility can put a joint at risk of osteoarthritis and other injuries
- Signs of cartilage changes in their knuckle joints that indicate possible scarring and a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis1
Like the research regarding knuckle cracking and arthritis, the research regarding these potential effects also sometimes conflicts. For example, the same study1 that reported knuckle crackers had cartilage changes did not find they had weaker grip strength.
Studies examining knuckle cracking tend to be small, ranging from 35 to 300 people. Also, most compare knuckle crackers and non-crackers at a single point in time. Larger, longer-term studies that measure changes in hands over time are necessary to draw more clear conclusions.
Don’t Miss: Mayo Clinic Arthritis