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What's that cracking sound?


Most of us have probably grown up hearing that cracking your knuckles on a regular basis can lead to bony hands, big knuckles, and even arthritis. Or that hearing popping sounds coming from other joints is a sign of bigger issues. Rest assured that today we are going to take a look at a couple of the myths surrounding not only knuckle cracking but joint popping in general and then pair those myths with actual facts. Sound good? Let’s get started.

Myth #1: Knuckle cracking causes Arthritis.

This is by far the most common warning people often give someone when they hear them pop their knuckles. For most people cracking their knuckles is an unconscious and habitual act, meaning they often do it without even thinking about it.

To set the record straight knuckle cracking does not cause arthritis, although it may irritate the people around you. There are several published studies based on the impact of arthritis on both habitual knuckle crackers and people who have no issue with the habit. From those individuals, the conclusion was drawn that the risk of arthritis was exactly the same for both parties.

The popping sound created by a cracked knuckle is actually air escaping from what is called synovial fluid. Synovial fluid helps to lubricate the joints and provide a cushion for movement. When the bones are separated slightly in the act of cracking it releases bubbles from the synovial fluid.

While your risk of arthritis is not heightened by cracking knuckles, it does cause issues in the long term for things like hand swelling and reduced grip strength. The best thing to do would be to try and be cautious when you crack your knuckles and to replace the habit with something else.

Myth #2: Popping sounds from joints like the knees, elbows, ankles, etc. are signs of deeper issues.

For some of us, when we get up in the morning and do our first stretch of the day it can be accompanied by a chorus of crackles and pops. Much like the knuckle-cracking in your hands that we discussed above, body joint cracking is also caused by synovial fluid. We understand that while it’s nothing to worry about creaking and popping joints can still be very frustrating.

So why do our joints pop when we get older? The short answer is that the older we get and the more we use our joints the more the cartilage and connective tissue is worn down. Once the cartilage is worn down the bones begin to rub against each other more often creating the creaking and popping in the synovial fluid that we are so used to hearing.

It’s easy to misdiagnose yourself at home, which is why if you are really concerned about the popping sound coming from a certain part of your body you should seek out the professional opinion of a licensed chiropractor. Especially if any of that popping is causing severe discomfort or pain. So give us a call or come by for a visit at Life Giving Chiropractic.

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