Cracking Your Back Neck And Other Areas
If you regularly crack your neck or your back, this is where you may actually be doing some harm to yourself. As mentioned earlier, if youre experiencing cracking or popping in these areas naturally, then you have nothing to worry about.
But if youre intentionally cracking these parts of your body because you feel pain or stiffness and youre looking for some quick relief, you might want to reconsider. Cracking your neck too aggressively puts you at risk for overstretching your ligaments or misaligning certain bones in your back.
If you struggle with back pain regularly, your best bet is to seek professional help from your doctor. Even doing yoga or other gentle stretches can help with this discomfort, and youll be making more permanent gains than if you just give it a quick crack.
So now you know a little bit more about the nature of cracking your joints. But if youre suffering from joint pain, the knowledge alone might not give you the relief youre looking for.
To help get you started on your path to better joint health, here are a few tips you should keep in mind when thinking about your joints:
If Someones Nagging You To Stop Your Knuckle Cracking Show Them This
Do you wince when people crack their knuckles? Or gasp are *you* the knuckle cracker in the room everyone stares at?
If you are a knuckle cracker, has anyone ever tried to get you to stop by warning you that your annoying hand habit will lead to osteoarthritis ?
Well sorry, mom theres no evidence to back up the claim that joint cracking can lead to arthritis.
Here, we address the finer points of cracking joints:
The Truth And The Myth Behind The Cracking Knuckles Debate
Cracking your knuckles may aggravate the people around you, but it probably won’t raise your risk for arthritis. That’s the conclusion of several studies that compared rates of hand arthritis among habitual knuckle-crackers and people who didn’t crack their knuckles.
The “pop” of a cracked knuckle is caused by bubbles bursting in the synovial fluid the fluid that helps lubricate joints. The bubbles pop when you pull the bones apart, either by stretching the fingers or bending them backward, creating negative pressure. One study’s authors compared the sudden, vibratory energy produced during knuckle cracking to “the forces responsible for the destruction of hydraulic blades and ship propellers.”
Even if knuckle cracking doesn’t cause arthritis, there’s still good reason to let go of the habit. Chronic knuckle-cracking may lead to reduced grip strength. And there are at least two published reports of injuries suffered while people were trying to crack their knuckles.
For more information on keeping your hand healthy, nimble, and strong, buy Hands: Strategies for Strong, Pain-Free Hands, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
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How It Affects Your Joints
Although cracking your knuckles regularly can be relatively harmless, it can also cause damage if its done incorrectly or too frequently. If you pull or crack your knuckles incorrectly, you can actually cause a ligament injury or even dislocate your fingers. If you notice sudden pain or swelling after cracking your knuckles, you may have caused an injury to your joint ant you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
Cracking your knuckles consistently can also wear away the cartilage in your joints over time, resulting in pain-causing inflammation within your joints.
Why Do My Joints Make Sounds
Joints are normally lubricated with fluids and contain cartilage allowing for smooth movement.1There are many reasons for joints to make noises. Some are serious and some are completely harmless.
Sometimes soft tissues like tendons and ligaments glide across bones. This is common in the neck.2 My neck, both before and after vertebral fusion surgery, cracks and crunches every time it moves. My physical therapist said that many peoples necks make these innocuous sounds.
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Does Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis
Anxiety, restlessness or just pure pleasure there are lots of reasons why many find comfort in cracking their knuckles. But, does it cause arthritis? The short answer is no.
According to Houston Methodist Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Dr. John Fackler, “There are no known detrimental effects to cracking your knuckles.” At worst, knuckle-cracking may cause temporary swelling or a feeling of weakness in the hands but arthritis, not quite.
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.
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Does Popping Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis
There are a number of reasons why people crack their knuckles. For some people it relieves pain, for some theyve irritated the joint and it relieves pressure, and for others its just constant habit. So is the myth that popping your knuckles causes arthritis true?
First we must understand what the actual pop is in our knuckles.
Causes Of Arthritis In The Hands
Arthritic conditions can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, and tenderness in the small joints of the hands and fingers.
Inflammatory arthritis conditions, like RA, psoriatic arthritis, gout, and ankylosing spondylitis cause inflammation. Symptoms of inflammation include redness, warmth, swelling, and pain. In general, OA is degenerative, rather than inflammatory.
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Should You Be Worried About Popping Your Knuckles
Fortunately, the general consensus of the medical community is that knuckle popping is not an unhealthy habit and does not cause or increase a patients risk of developing arthritis. Several studies found no evidence that knuckle popping leads to joint damage, loss of cartilage, or chronic diseases such as arthritis.
Knuckle popping accompanied by pain, swelling, or discomfort, on the other hand, is a cause for concern. This may indicate that something beyond simple knuckle popping is going on and you should be evaluated by a qualified doctor.
When To See A Doctor
Cracking your knuckles doesnt cause harm, so it shouldnt be painful, cause swelling, or change the shape of the joint. These are signs that something is wrong, and you should be evaluated by your doctor.
Injuring your finger by pulling very forcefully or moving it in the wrong direction is usually very painful. Your finger may look crooked or start to swell. If this happens, you should see your doctor right away.
If you notice your joints are painful or swollen while cracking your knuckles, its likely due to an underlying condition and should be evaluated by your doctor.
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Common Causes And When To See A Healthcare Provider
Many people can make their fingers pop and snap, often called cracking knuckles. The sound you hear is caused by nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide bubbles moving in the fluid that surrounds your joints. Rest assured that the most common causes of finger-popping are not typically a problem.
When there is no pain associated with popping or snapping fingers, it is usually harmless. However, if your noisy finger joints are painful or swollen, you should contact your healthcare provider.
This article explains when snapping fingers and cracking knuckles can be signs of a problem. It will also discuss symptoms to be aware of and potential treatments.
What Happens When You Crack Your Knuckles
The need to pop your joints is a medical mystery. No one really knows why this phenomenon exists or its purpose. The mechanics behind joints cracking is well understood, though. A joint is an intersection where two bones connect. The human body has around 360 joints that bring bones together to form a skeleton that is able to bend and move freely.
Joints are surrounded by a membrane full of fluid. The membrane serves to protect the bone caps from friction damage as you move. When you yank on a joint trying to pop it, you create negative space that pulls in some of the fluid. That popping sound that makes Mom cringe is the influx of that fluid.
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A Bigger Risk For Some
While for most of us cracking our joints is relatively safe there are some who are more at risk from serious complications.
Cracking joints is relatively safe however, cracking joints in the spine and neck can, in rare instances, cause some serious issues, Dr Murphy says. It can damage the vertebral discs between the bones of the spine, cause damage to the spinal cord or cause damage to the major blood vessels which run between the bones of the neck to our brains.
Dr Murphy says suggests anyone with a history of strokes, injuries to their neck, or problems with blood vessels, people taking blood-thinning medication, and people with arthritis should avoid cracking their back and neck. The same rules apply when seeing a professional to manipulate your neck and back, Dr Murphy adds.
Williams says: Most joints in the body can be manipulated, but most commonly in practice its a technique used on the spine. It often happens naturally as we move around so if you roll over in bed and hear a few clunks, its generally nothing to worry about.
There are conditions which mean spinal manipulation is not appropriate, she adds, including:
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Is Cracking Your Fingers Bad For You
January 11, 2019 By Crystal Vera
Many people crack their knuckles, toes, back, and especially their fingers. The snapping, popping sound can cause those within earshot to recoil.
Perhaps you have heard that cracking your fingers can lead to arthritis, or that your fingers will become permanently disfigured. Maybe you were told as a child that cracking your fingers would stunt their growth.
So when you hear someone cracking their fingers or knuckles, you may admonish the person for doing irreparable damage to their joints. But is cracking your fingers and other joints really all that bad? The answer may surprise you.
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What Does Happen When You Crack Your Knuckles
Dr. Fackler explains that the pressure applied to knuckles “causes vapor pockets” within the fluid inside the joints. This then “creates a vacuum that sucks the joint apart rapidly,” causing a popping sound in the knuckles.
So why do so many people find relief in cracking their knuckles? Cracking your knuckles “feels as if it relieves tension in the joints,” Dr. Fackler says. “When that phenomenon happens, it causes a distraction of the joint and separates the joint for a brief second. If traction is applied to the joint, it feels as if it loosens up and is more mobile.”
Joint Sounds Due To Inflammation
One cannot blame every joint sound on rheumatoid arthritis as some joint deterioration is expected from normal aging. But for me, the sounds come and go depending on the level of inflammation. This symptom reminds me that joints may be activity impacted by the disease. The snap, crackle, and pop of joints serve as an audible reminder of RA.
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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.
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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Orthopedic Care In Bishop Ca
At Northern Inyo Healthcare District, our team of orthopedists take a holistic approach to care, focusing on you as a whole person rather than specific symptoms or conditions. Whether youre suffering from aches and pains or mobility issues, were here to help improve your quality of life.
For more information about the orthopedic services at Northern Inyo Healthcare District or to schedule an appointment, call 873-2605.
When To See A Healthcare Provider
- If the joint looks swollen, inflamed, or discolored
- If you cannot fully extend your finger
- If there is numbness at the fingertip
- If there is tenderness along the palm side of the finger, especially in the fold of the joint
- If there is morning stiffness lasting around 30 minutes
- If the finger joint looks enlarged or deformed
- If there is a dull, burning sensation in your fingers
- If there is tenderness in the joint
- If there is a loss of flexibility or a grating sensation
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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.
True Or False: Cracking Your Knuckles Causes Arthritis
Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis when you get older. Thats probably something youve heard at least once in your life, likely from your mom, concerned that your fidgeting habit will give you arthritis.
A number of studies have been done over the years to find out the long-term impact of cracking your knuckles, but theres no substantial evidence that shows knuckle cracking leads to arthritis.
Its a myth. Cracking your knuckles does not cause arthritis.
As for the crack or pop noise you hear after you crack your knuckles, its not bad, either .
To understand what makes the noise, its helpful to have a basic understanding of joints. A joint is the point where two bones attach, giving you the ability to move a body part. Inside the joint is a small pocket of synovial fluid that surrounds the bones. The fluids help the bones move back and forth without rubbing together.
When you bend or pull your joints, it creates a gap in between your bones. That gap sucks in synovial fluid. The rush of fluid into the gap is what creates the noise you hear when you crack your knuckles.
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