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The Mystery of Cracking Joints


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People tend to have many habits such as biting nails, licking lips or cracking knuckles. It is much like a comfort habit that gives relaxation. Most people like to ‘pop’ their knuckles, even after being warned by others not to indulge in it as it may be harmful for the joints. According to physiotherapy Vancouver, when one stretches or presses their joints, a small air bubble is formed between the sacs which pop when pressed. Not only knuckles, but many other joints such as shoulder, wrists, elbows, etc. can cause a cracking sound.
Reasons for Cracking of the Joints

Like most mysteries cracking sound too has a scientific explanation. There are many reasons due to which joints produce a popping, grinding and cracking noise.

• Escaping Gases: All the joints in the body are enveloped by a capsule known as synovial capsule. The synovial fluid present inside the capsule is a lubricant for the joints. This fluid contains oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen etc. When an individual stretches or presses the knuckles, the capsule stretches, lowering the pressure and creating vacuum. This vacuum further releases the gases causing bubble formation. When these bubbles burst, it leads to cracking and popping sound. Since it takes time for the gases to return to synovial fluids, one cannot crack knuckles immediately.

• Joints and Ligament Movement: According to studies the movement of the joints and ligaments too produce a cracking sound. When there is movement in the joints, it causes ligaments to tighten and the tendons to move from their original position. When the tendons return back to their original place, it makes a snapping sound.

Apart from the above mentioned reasons, many other reasons too may be responsible for cracking of joints. In people suffering from arthritis, due to degenerative conditions, the surfaces of the joints becomes rough. Due to the absence of smooth surface, various sounds are produced from the joints of an arthritis patient.

There is a common notion that cracking knuckles can cause arthritis, but there is no scientific proof to support this hypothesis. A recent study was carried out to examine the effects of knuckle cracking. The study examined the hand radiographs of 215 candidates. Amongst them some cracked their knuckles, while others didn’t. Upon examination it was revealed that knuckle cracking did not cause osteoarthritis as believed. An earlier study too concluded that knuckle cracking, no matter how frequent and from how many years, did not cause arthritis.

Habitual knuckle crackers may face swelling, less grip strength. It wears and tears the cartilage over the time. Popping knuckles also cause elongation of the joint capsule making the fingers appear long. It can also lead to inflammation of the ligament capsule leading to swelling and impairment in the long run. Many people also suffer from dislocation of the finger due to constant knuckle popping.

Physiotherapy Vancouver advices not to indulge in such knuckle or any other joint popping as it can have long term effects, even if not arthritis.

Physiotherapy Vancouver helps restore movement and normal body function following an illness or injury.


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