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.
Keeping Your Hands Healthy
Should you have questions about maintaining healthy hands, be sure to check out our various blogs on joint protections techniques. You can also contact an Athletico Hand Therapist who have specialized training and expertise in the treatment of arthritic conditions and injuries of the hands and upper extremities.
Will Cracking Your Joints Cause Arthritis
The Big Question. Various studies conducted across the world do not point towards any evidence that cracking joints does indeed causearthritis. However, pain followed by cracking joints, random bursts of pain, cracking of joints while moving around, etc could be markers of arthritis onset. However, there is no inherent proof that correlates cracking of joints with the causes of arthritis. It is important to identify the causes of arthritis such as health, age and genetics of the individual.
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So Does Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis
The short answer? Probably not, according to Husni. A study published in 2011 in The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that habitual knuckle cracking did not seem to be a risk factor for hand osteoarthritis. But Husni says cracking your knuckles can lead to other joint issues.
The term arthritis refers to loss of cartilage where your joint space gets more narrow over time, she explains. Eventually, bone meets bone in that joint, and thats really uncomfortable.
As opposed to actual arthritis, Husni says cracking your knuckles can lead to joint laxity, which can cause painand you might mistake that sensation for arthritis. In other words, thats where this myth comes from.
Now, lets break down what it means to develop joint laxity. Any time you do things to your joints that are outside their normal range of motion , that can cause the joints to loosen, according to Husni. And the more you do it, the looser your joints are likely to become, and the more permanently your joints stay in a relaxed state.
But a word of caution: As you get older, there’s a higher chance of arthritis in general, Husni says. So while cracking your knuckles probably doesnt cause arthritis, you could certainly still wind up with it.
Reasons To Stop Cracking Knuckles
In general, crepitus is harmless and doesnt necessarily signal a health problem like arthritis. However, the act of cracking ones knuckles may stress joints in ways that are completely unnecessary and gratuitous. Frequent knuckle crackers should particularly avoid this habit if it is accompanied by pain, swelling, or immobility in the joint.
As quoted in Arthritis Health, a recent study of 300 patients found that knuckle crackers generally had weaker grips and were more likely to have swelling in their hands.
Why Do My Joints Crack During Exercise
Athletes can hear joint cracking when they participate in strenuous activities such as running and plyometricsthe sound results from tight muscles that are causing friction against bones. If athletes stretch appropriately before exercise, it can help to relax the muscles. In doing so, you can decrease the number cracking sounds, as well as decrease the risk of injury.
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Research At The Center
Several affiliate faculty members at CSUs Columbine Health Systems Center for Healthy Aging have conducted research studies on arthritis and related conditions to help devise other interventions to manage arthritic pain.
For example, Associate Director Karyn Hamilton has collaborated with Dr. Kelly Santangelo an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology, and Associate Professor Raoul Reiser, also in the Department of Health and Exercise Science, to understand how skeletal muscle changes as OA progresses in guinea pigs. As a result, the team has established the guinea pig as a model to better understand musculoskeletal decline, and especially osteoarthritis, in humans and animals.
Additionally, Dr. Felix Duerr director of small animal orthopedic medicine and mobility services at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital has a research program that aims to improve quality of life in dogs suffering from orthopedic disease, including arthritis. Listen to Duerrs feature on the Centers living healthy longer podcast.
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This Is Why Your Joints May Be Cracking And Popping
Do you ever stand too quickly and hear a pop from your kneecaps? Or how about when you stretch and your shoulders crack so loud, youre worried your neighbors will hear? Youre not alone. In fact, most people experience it, and it becomes more common as you age. What really is that sound, though?
According to Arthritis Health, joint crepitus is a grinding, creaking or popping that occurs when you move a joint, and although specialists arent exactly sure of the underlying cause, there are a number of possible explanations. Read on for three major reasons why your joints may be cracking, and when the sound should be a cause for concern.
Reason one: nitrogen bubbles When you crack your knuckles, that popping sound may be coming from the compression of nitrogen bubbles in the spaces of the joints. By cracking your knuckles, youre essentially popping air bubbles. This kind of joint crepitus is very common and generally doesnt cause pain.
Reason two: tendons or ligaments snapping Another cause of joint crepitus is when tendons or ligaments snap over the bony structures in your joints that stretching of the tissue is where the sound comes from. Although some people feel pain or discomfort with this kind of cracking, it should only cause worry if the pain becomes debilitating. In that case, the popping might indicate arthritis or another underlying medical condition.
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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.”
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Can Cracking My Neck Cause Arthritis
Do you often crack your neck? If so, you may wonder if this habit could be causing arthritis. Arthritis is a common condition that can cause joint pain and stiffness. While there are different forms of arthritis, the most common form is osteoarthritis. This type of arthritis is caused by the wear and tear of the cartilage that protects the bones.
Experts can treat neck pain in . Methods like spinal cord stimulation, epidural injections, and trigger point injections can be used to help relieve pain.
Read on to understand how cracking your neck can cause arthritis and what you can do to prevent it.
What Is Cracking Your Knuckles
The first thing to know is that there is no actual cracking going on. Joints are covered by the synovial capsule. Inside the capsule is synovial fluid which helps lubricate the joint. Gases are continuously dissolved in the synovial fluid. When you crack your knuckle, you stretch the capsule which lowers the pressure and creates a vacuum. A bubble of gas is formed and due to the pressure from when you bent your finger, it bursts, creating the popping or cracking sound you hear.
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What Makes The Popping Sound
The sound heard when one cracks their knuckles is simply a release of gas, similar to when a carbonated beverage is opened. A variety of gasses are dissolved in the lubricating synovial fluid inside a joint. When one cracks, the joint or a joint is quickly moved after being still for a period of time, the stretching of the capsule lowers the pressure inside the joint and creates a vacuum, which is filled by the gas that was dissolved in the fluid. This creates a bubble of gas, which bursts, causing the characteristic, popping, or cracking, sound. It takes a bit of time for the gasses to re-dissolve in the synovial fluid, which explains why the knuckles cannot be immediately, re-cracked. The releasing of the gas bubble is harmless to the joint. When the bubble pops, it causes a disruption of the joint and the joint separates for a brief second. This quick traction to the joint, along with the release of the gas, can makes the joint feel more loose and mobile, which may explain why this can be a stress reliever to those who crack their knuckles.1,2,5,6
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.
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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. Its 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 didnt matter how long they had been knuckle-crackers or how often they did it each day.
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Q: Does Cracking Your Knuckles Lead To Arthritis
A: Maybe you do it out of habit, or as a way to release tension. But if youre a regular at cracking your knuckles, youve probably heard that cracking your knuckles will enlarge them or cause arthritis in your joints. Is there any truth to this?
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Turns out, this is an old wives tale. Habitual knuckle-cracking wont cause osteoarthritis or joint enlargement.
Cracking your knuckles releases gas, in the form of nitrogen bubbles from the space around your joints. The sound is triggered as the bubbles are compressed. Researchers arent sure if the sound emitted from cracking your knuckles is that of gas bubbles being formed or released. But its just gas, nonetheless.
That said, the sound can make some people cringe. And a 1999 study found weaker hand grips and more hand swelling among knuckle-crackers.
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The Bottom Line: Does Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis
Multiple studies have indicated that there is noevidence to suggest cracking knuckles causes or worsens arthritis.2,3 However, chronic knuckle cracking maylead to reduced grip strength, and there have been occasional reports of tendoninjuries and dislocations.4
Although patients who crack their knuckles are not at greater risk for osteoarthritis, its important that they pay attention to pain in their joints. If knuckle cracking proves painful, there could be an abnormality in the structure of the joint.
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.
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Damaged Tissue Due To Ra
Other joint sounds actually come from damaged tissue that gets caught in a joint.4 My shoulder joints crunch and lock when I attempt to raise them above my head. My left shoulder locks and pops at three different spots. This snapping sound is known as crepitus5 which is Latin for crackling.6 There are multiple forms but articular crepitus, which occurs at the tips of bones, is a common symptom of RA. As the joint is attacked by inflammation, tissues are degenerated resulting in soft tissue destruction and bone damage.
I know that my knees have permanent damage because an MRI confirmed that the articular cartilage was eroded to the point where pieces of the soft tissue were frayed and floating around in the joint. There are places where rough surfaces of the bone are in contact with one another. My doctor said that the loud popping sounds in my knee are likely from a piece of frayed cartilage catching on something during the flexing motion.
This also explains the nearly constant pain that racks my right knee. But Ive lived with this for over six years and perhaps the progressive aspects of the disease have been slowed down by treatments.
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Why People Crack Their Knuckles
Studies have shown that more than 50% of people crack their knuckles regularly, which can be caused by a multitude of reasons. Some of the main reasons people enjoy indulging in hearing these pops and cracks include:
- They enjoy the sound.
- They like the feeling of released tension.
- Its a nervous habit.
- Some people do it to relieve stress.
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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.
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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Joint Fluid And Gasses
Your finger joints contain a fluid called synovium. Inside this fluid there are also dissolved gasses of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. When a joint is briefly gapped there is a release of joint pressure and audible release of these gasses. This is synonymous with what happens with adjustments of the spine. Despite what you might have been told, the sound is not your joint being put back in to place.
So does cavitation cause arthritis?
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Whats The Science Behind Knuckle Cracking
If youve everwondered what causes the popping sound were all so familiar with, youre notalone. Researchers have debated the matter for decades and offer varioustheories.1
- In 1939, researchers posited that the popping sound was caused by atightening of the fibrous capsule surrounding the joint after the joint is adjustedor moved.
- In 1947, the leading theory was that vibrations in the tissue wereresponsible for the noise.
- In 1971, the popping sound was thought to be caused by collapse ofcavitation bubbles in the synovial fluid.
- In 2015, using magnetic resonance imaging , researchers demonstratedthat the cavitation bubbles in the joint remained after the popping soundoccurs, throwing into question the bubble collapse theory.
Finally, in 2018,researchers from Stanford University and E´ cole Polytechnique inPalaiseau, France, published a mathematical model that aimed to put the debateto rest.1
The investigators found evidence that what researchershad theorized in 1971 is true: the collapse of cavitation bubbles produces asound. They found what researchers had demonstrated 44 years later is alsotrue: bubbles persist after a sound is generated.
How can both be true?
Through their mathematical model, the researchersdemonstrated that the bubbles only partly collapse, leaving behind a stablemicro-bubble. The sudden, incomplete contraction of the cavitation bubbleproduces an audible sound, while leaving behind enough bubble to be detectableby MRI.
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