Weekly Wellness

Weekly Wellness

by Laura Dillavou

Whether it’s a nervous habit or one used to loosen up, millionsof people across the world crack their knuckles. While some arguethat is detrimental to the joint, other’s see no reason to stop thepop.

Cracking the joints in your body has been long known as a way torelive pressure, tension, and to loosen up the area. However, thiscracking is also rumored to cause the joints to enlarge and lead topossible arthritis.

The cracking that is heard is the bursting of synovial fluidbetween the joints. This clear, jelly-like substance surrounds allthe joints in your body and when pressure drops, bubbles form inthe fluid and in combination with the stretching of the connectivetissue capsule surrounding the joint, you are able to crack thatarea.

After this occurs, it takes about 30 minutes for the pressure todrop back to a ‘crackable’ stage. If a person were to continuallycrack his/her knuckles, there are possible damages that couldhappen.

Although most people can remember someone, at some point,telling them that knuckle cracking would lead to arthritis, it isquite unlikely, according to Raymond Brodeur, as published in theJournal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. Through 300studies on chronic knuckle crackers, the only damages revealed werethose associated with ligament and soft tissue damages.(www.science.howstuffworks.com)

These damages could eventually lead to a decrease in gripstrength. There was no correlation between joint cracking andarthritis. However, it could enlarge the joint, due to the lostelasticity and mobility of the tissue capsule and ligamentssurrounding the joint. It also builds friction and rough spots onthe bone.

Despite all the negative aspects of joint cracking, it is shownthat once cracked, the area is more limber and moveable. Forexample, in the morning, it is common to hear ankles, knees, andbacks pop as the body has had a length of time to lay still andwithout strenuous movement. As the body starts to get up and movearound for the day, the joints gradually loosen up and gain regularmobility.

Cracking the knuckles is something that most anyone can do, butwhen it comes to the neck and back, it should be left to achiropractor, orthopedic doctor, or physical therapist. Having yourbest friend walk across your back in hopes of relieving a littlepressure is not the answer.

If you find that cracking is becoming continual, a doctor canprescribe strengthening and flexibility exercises to help thejoints and strengthen the ligaments.