House Call Doctor explains why knuckle-cracking is nothing more than annoying.
Joints pop when the pressure in a joint changes quickly. As I mentioned in my first arthritis article, the joint is filled with a thick fluid called synovial fluid. When a joint moves in certain ways, it creates a negative pressure in places. Joints pop when the area of negative pressure is suddenly filled.
There are some people out there who enjoy popping their joints, a habit that has distressed many people around the joint poppers. As a weapon against this percussive social faux pas, somebody somewhere decided that this habit was harmful. Many mothers have chided their knuckle-cracking children while sitting in an exam room with me. But I am sorry to say that the only thing wrong with popping joints is that it bugs other people. This may be an issue for the Modern Manners Guy, but it is not a medical issue.
There may one exception to this rule: cracking your neck. Don’t crack your neck; there are arteries in your neck that may be damaged if you do that, and a neck that cracks often is a sign of hypermobility—a condition where the neck has a range of motion that is greater than it should be and can make you prone to injury.
Some joints are “creaky,” but this is nothing to worry about unless there is pain along with the creaking. Joints creak due to the tendons and ligaments around the joint. Yes, doctors do have a fancy word for creaking of joints; it is called crepitus.
Hands image courtesy of Shutterstock
Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.