Is cracking my joints going to cause arthritis?
We have all heard the sound of a joint in our body ‘popping’ or ‘clicking’ at some point, whether it be our knuckles, ankles, back, neck or shoulders. Often people presume that these noises may be harmful and lead to arthritis, but is there any truth to this? Also, where are these sounds coming from?
The simple answer is that no, these joint noises are not harmful and there is no evidence they lead to arthritis. In fact, many people experience pain relief or a sense of relaxation after the popping! The audible ‘pop’ comes from the collapsing of little bubbles within the synovial (joint) fluid as the joint moves back and forth. As the joint moves, a negative pressure builds within it, eventually popping bubbles within the joint fluid, which creates sound. If you have been to a physiotherapist or a chiropractor, they may have used manual therapy techniques where you heard multiple ‘clicks’ and ‘pops,’ which is typically followed by a reduction in pain and an increase in function.
If you hear a pop or a click, or have the habit cracking your knuckles, there is no evidence that this is harmful. However, like most things in life, it’s best to use moderation. Not all joint noises are created equal, and if they are coupled with pain, it is probably best to the get those checked by your physiotherapist or chiropractor.
By Sean Overin, Physiotherapist