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Is Cracking Your Knuckles and/or Neck Bad for Your Joints?

It’s something we all have done; voluntarily or not. It could just be from habit or to relieve some pressure we feel in our hands or back. People have wondered for a while now if this can be damaging to our joints and bones.

First, we have to understand what happens when we personally crack our knuckles or spine. The big CRACK sound that feels so good is gas leaving a joint. It’s not bone directly being affected. At a joint, where two bones meet, there is a covering of articular cartilage. The bones are held together by other connective tissues, like ligaments. The joint capsule surrounds the joint containing the lubrication to help move the joint. This lubrication is called sinovial fluid, and it is made from dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. After the gas is released, you won’t be able to crack knuckles again for 15-30 minutes as the gas needs time to dissolve back into the joint fluid. As a chiropractor people will always say, “well I adjust my neck all the time”, but have you noticed you only get relief for a few hours (if that)? The main reason for this is that your putting force through a joint that isn’t fixated. Over time, the area can become hyper mobile (moves too much) and unstable.

Numerous studies have shown that cracking your knuckles does not lead to arthritis. However, there is a relationship between knuckle-cracking and hand swelling, loss of lower grip strength, ligament damage, soft tissue injuries, and dislocation of tendons. This is really only the result of rapid, repeated stretching of the ligaments. So, unless you’re addicted to self-adjusting, there is really no cause for concern. If these problems in the hands or the spine persist, it would be best to consult your chiropractor. Severe or chronic issues should be left to the professionals. We are always glad to help!

Dr. Nathan Holley

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