If you crack your knuckles, you’ve probably been told to stop because it’s damaging and will cause arthritis. It’s a common belief that knuckle cracking adds excess wear and tear on the joint which leads to arthritis. It’s also been said that frequently cracking them depletes their synovial fluid content. But is this a wife’s tale, or does it have some merit? Our Bessemer chiropractor at Premier Chiropractic would like to explain.
Crack away, my friend. This habit won’t cause arthritis or hurt your finger joints. It, however, may be hurting your co-workers, spouse, friends, and anyone else you come in contact with who cringes every time they hear that noise. As I write this, I’m shuddering and feeling a little sick to my stomach just thinking about that awful sound.
What Actually Happens When You Crack Your Knuckles
That noise isn’t the sound of joint damage occurring. The cracking isn’t the sound of arthritis in the making. We should note that your finger joints consist of cartilage that covers the end of the bones. They’re classified as synovial joints, which means they contain synovial fluid. This lubricating liquid protects and nourishes. This fluid also consists of dissolved gasses including nitrogen.
As you crack your knuckles, you apply pressure to the joint. Ultimately, this pressure causes the joint capsule to expand. The synovial fluid in the joint restricts how much the capsule can expand. When pressure is placed on the fluid, the gasses begin to release and cause a cracking noise. Therefore, that cracking noise, no matter how disgusting it sounds, isn’t from anything harmful happening.
Joint Pain When Knuckle Cracking
Unfortunately, knuckle cracking is a bit habit-forming to some, whether it’s from the sound or the sweet release it triggers. So, you very well may find yourself knuckle-cracking when you’re stressed. You might find yourself knuckle-cracking out of boredom.
With that said, it may eventually cause you pain. This doesn’t have anything to do with the actual process of cracking. It comes from the fact that you already have joint damage for another reason, such as from arthritis or a traumatic event. You’re then worsening your pain by moving the joint itself. The pain has nothing to do with the act of knuckle cracking.
In this case, you want to refrain from this habit. There’s no benefit in this habit if you’re hurting yourself in the process.
Cracking Your Back and Neck
We don’t ever recommend you crack your neck and back. This isn’t the same because of how sensitive the tissue and nerves are in these areas. One wrong move and you could pinch a nerve. You could also strain the soft tissue in your neck, among other issues. The repetitive stretching of the joint could also cause instability, which can heighten your risk of an injury. You may even pressure a blood vessel and cause it to break.
When we perform “neck and back cracking,” we use specialized techniques and control the force. If you’re unsure how to perform this, it can be more damaging than beneficial. That’s especially if you do it too frequently.
Don’t worry if you accidentally crack your neck or back when you move a certain way. This isn’t damaging like when you forcefully do it.
At Premier Chiropractic Center, serving Bessemer, AL, and the nearby region, we’re available to do all the joint cracking you need to feel your best with less pain and have a better range of motion. We just strongly recommend you leave this practice to us so you stay safe. And if you want to crack those knuckles, especially when nobody is around, have at it.
Book an appointment today if you’d like a back or neck adjustment by calling 205-519-4024. We also have an online form for your convenience.