Cracking your knuckles, is a type of joint manipulation that produces a sudden popping or cracking sound.
Read on to find out what’s going on.
What makes the pop?
“Cracking joints” is an interesting and poorly understood event. There are several theories as to why joints crack, but the exact cause is simply not known. The most supported theory is, as a joint is pulled apart a vacuum is created and bubbles from tiny dissolved gases around the joint burst rapidly causing the cracking sound.
A True Story
A Young boy named Donald Unger was once told by his mother to stop cracking his knuckles else he’d get arthritis. Donald was a curious boy and spurred on to prove his mother wrong began an experiment. Every day he cracked the knuckles of his left hand but never his right.
Donald grew up to study medicine whilst continuing each day to crack his left knuckles. After spending over sixty years conducting his experiment, the now Dr Donald Unger reported no arthritis or any other problems in either hand. He had proved his mother wrong but he also earned the Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine for this in 2009.
Donald’s research helped prove that painless cracking of joints is not harmful.
When that pop or click hurts
This is where it gets a little more complicated.
When popping is painful or when the joints clunk more than pop, in that you can feel a jolt within the joint that doesn’t feel comfortable (Often felt in shoulders and knee caps), in these cases it’s more likely to be tendons slipping over tissues. This can occur with aging as muscle mass and changes in movement mechanics mean some muscles weaken and don’t provide adequate support.
If cracking is accompanied by pain, there could be underlying abnormalities of the structures of the joint, such as loose cartilage or injured ligaments. Some patients with arthritis (inflammation of joints), bursitis, or tendinitis notice “cracking” sounds due to the snapping of irregular, swollen tissues.
To ‘Crack on’ and Sum it all up!
Knuckle cracking has not been shown to be harmful or beneficial.
More specifically, knuckle cracking does not cause arthritis!