Whether you call it cracking or popping, that loud noise you hear when the knuckles are either pushed on, pulled or jerked can sound worrisome. But is it really? The claim that cracking your knuckles leads to arthritis has long been used to dispel people (especially children) from the habit, but does it have any merit?
Many people enjoy cracking their knuckles because it helps to loosen them up and increase flexibility. Their is also the psychological aspect, that it can be a way to relax and ease tension. As a result, people enjoy cracking the joints in their hands, toes, necks, backs, etc. on a daily basis without gibing it much thought. However, the warning has long been issues that cracking your knuckles too much will cause damage to the joints and lead painful and possibly debilitating arthritis.
There isn't any established information at this time to indicate a correlation between cracking or popping of the knuckles with the development of osteoarthritis. In fact, this practice won't hurt you or help you. The most recent study on this topic was conducted at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland and published in 2011 in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. In the study, participants were observed over a period of five years and it was found the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis in the hands was similar in participants who cracked their knuckles and those who didn't. The 214 participants were between the ages of 50 and 89 and had either radiographically proven hand osteoarthritis or were healthy.
However, there are some reports that you may lose strength in your grip over time if you continuously crack your knuckles, but again, not enough to establish a confirmed link. As a general rule, as long as the cracking or popping doesn't hurt, there shouldn't be any problems with this habit. If you feel pain though, it's time to stop and possibly get the joint(s) looked at to see if anything else is going on.
So, what is happening?
According to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, the sound you hear when someone cracks or pops their knuckles is caused by gases within the joint capsule, also known as the synovial capsule. This capsule overs the joint and holds the synovial fluid, which is important for keeping the joints lubricated and mobile. Gases are naturally occurring within this fluid and are regularly dissolved there. When you crack your knuckle, the pressure capsule will stretch, lowering joint pressure and creating vacuum within the joint that will become filled by gas. When this gas pops, you get the loud noise.
Actual Causes of Arthritis
There are two major causes of arthritis -- inflammation and degeneration. Inflammation is a natural reaction by the body to injury or other irritants. This causes swelling, pain, stiffness and even heat at the joints. The most common form of inflammatory arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis. When someone suffers from arthritis as a result of degeneration, it's because the joints have become weakened or damaged due to strain and years of intense use. Aging will cause the breakdown and weakening of the joints as well as participation in sports and being overweight, which is taxing on the joints.
While knuckle cracking isn't known at this time to make arthritis worse, according to Johns Hopkins, it isn't recommended for anyone with joints that are already weak or damaged as it could cause more injury.
Natural Arthritis Management
If you suffer from arthritis, you may be taking prescription or over-the-counter medications to manage it. If so, it's important to speak with your doctor before changing your regimen in any way. There are some natural therapies worth discussing at your next appointment that may bring you the relief you're after:
Roots like turmeric and ginger can help reduce inflammation and the pain and stiffness it causes. Take them in supplement form.
MSM (methylsulphonymethane) is a naturally occurring form of sulfur that helps maintain the connective tissues and cartilage of the joints. Available in oral and topical formulas.
Get 1,200 mg of calcium daily for bone health paired with 400 IU of vitamin D3 for optimal absorption.
Glucosamine and chondroitin, when taken together, promote greater flexibility and mobility of the joints.
Exercise and stretch on a daily basis.
Apply essential oils like lavender and peppermint to painful joints by adding them to lotion or even bath water.
Shop for all these supplements and more to manage your arthritis and check back for the latest health news and information at eVitamins. Have a great week!