Why are my bones so brittle? It’s fairly ordinary to crack your knuckles or other joints on occasion, and it’s usually not dangerous. It also does not induce arthritis, contrary to popular belief.
Cracking a joint can bring relief and allow you to move more freely in it. According to a 2018 research, scientists are still debating why and how joints break, but sophisticated imaging equipment has helped to elucidate the process.
As your cartilage goes away, joint cracking may become more obvious as you get older. If your cracking is accompanied by pain or swelling, or whether it occurs after an accident, consult your doctor to determine if there is a medical problem at play.
Knees that snap when we get up, a neck that breaks when we move our head, and ankles that pop when we twist them: we’ve all had it.
Joint breaking may be a loud – and perhaps unsettling – sound. When individuals hear their joints pinging, it’s understandable that they believe something is wrong with them.
Although creaking and cracking joints might be bothersome, they are typically not cause for concern, according to orthotics surgeons.
Popping Joints: What Causes Them?
Normal fluid and gas in your joints, rubbing of bone or cartilage in your joints against one other, and motions of your tendons and ligaments can all cause your joints to pop.
While this seldom causes discomfort, it might be disturbing if it happens frequently or in a large amount.
Joint popping, in general, does not cause arthritis, is not an indication of a significant medical condition, and is not harmful.However, in some circumstances, you may need to consult with your healthcare practitioner.
Popping can happen in any bodily joint. Flexing or turning your ankle, opening and shutting your hand, or moving your neck are some of the main ways this happens.
In certain circumstances, you may feel rather than hear popping, particularly in your knee.
Joint cracking facts in a nutshell
- Crepitus is the Latin word for “rattle,” and it refers to the cracking, popping, or grating noises that surround a joint.
- Knuckle cracking is claimed to occur 25 percent to 45 percent of the time in the United States, according to a small 2017 research.
- People who crack their knuckles are “far more prone to break other joints in their body,” according to the same tiny 2017 research.
- Joint cracking sounds has not been connected to illness, according to a separate small 2017 research.
What causes joints to crack?
Joint cracking can be caused by a variety of factors. It’s common, and it’s typically not a sign of a problem with your bones. Many investigations have been conducted to determine what generates the cracking or popping sounds, but the answer is still unknown.
The following are some natural causes of joint cracking:
- Muscle activation makes noises. Joint sounds might occur as the muscle extends. A tendon, for example, may snap in and out of position while stretching, exercising, dancing, or performing repetitive movements at work.
- Cartilage degeneration. This might happen as a result of ageing, which can roughen joint surfaces and cause joint noise when moving.
- Arthritis. This can also result in cartilage degradation and joint noise.
Many people notice that as they get older, their joints seem to make more noise. That’s because there’s a valid reason for it.
“As you get older, your joints might create more noise because some of your cartilage goes away as part of the natural ageing process,” explains Dr. Stearns. “As these surfaces rub against one other, they get a little rougher, resulting in greater noise.”
And, according to Dr. Stearns, joint noises can come and go based on how you arrange your body when you sit and sleep, as well as how you utilize your body when you move.
What is that noise?
Your joints break and fracture for a variety of causes. If you’re in the gym doing repetitive activities like lifting weights or doing pushups, for example, you could hear a clicking or quiet snapping sound every time you bend your arm or leg.
According to Dr. Stearns, this sound generally signals that a muscle is tense and rubbing and producing friction around the bone. The sound might potentially be caused by tendons rubbing against the bone.
If that’s the case, attempt mild stretching to reduce or eliminate the cracking.Many of Dr. Stearns’ patients have reported hearing similar noises originating from their shoulders.
“The shoulder is the noisiest joint because there are so many moving elements and tendons that travel across bones,” he explains.
Noises made by the knuckles
The sound of your knuckles cracking comes from the compression of nitrogen bubbles that naturally exist in the crevices between the joints, according to Dr. Stearns.
According to Dr. Stearns, the cracking is the sound of gas being expelled from the joint, a process known as cavitation. There’s no need to be concerned about the noise.
And, contrary to what your mother believes, cracking your knuckles will not cause them to grow too large or cause arthritis.
According to Dr. Stearns, “the concept that cracking your knuckles is hazardous for your joints is an ancient wives’ tale.” “My mother always told me not to crack my knuckles, but Mom, there’s no scientific evidence that it’s unhealthy for your joints.”
The Cracking Mechanics
It’s unclear what’s causing the cracking or popping noise.
According to one theory, pressure on a joint causes microscopic bubbles in the synovial fluid to develop, which then rupture when they form fast. Your synovial fluid protects your bones from rubbing against one other by containing oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide.
The noise was linked to cavity creation in the joint fluid, not the collapse of a preexisting bubble, according to a 2015 research that employed real-time magnetic resonance imaging of joint cracking. “Tribonucleation” is the technical word for when two surfaces separate fast, leaving a gas cavity.
However, a 2018 study established a mathematical model of bubble dynamics and sound that supported the bubble collapse theory.
Is it harmful to fracture your joints?
Although cracking your knuckles or other joints isn’t considered “bad,” it might irritate those around you if you do it repeatedly. If you crack a joint too hard, such as in your back, you risk pinching a nerve or straining a muscle.
According to a tiny 2011 research, whether you do it yourself or have a chiropractor move a bone, the cracking process can provide you a bodily sensation of relief from pressure.
Another 2011 study debunked the popular belief that cracking your knuckles causes arthritis in your hands. Knuckle cracking, according to studies, does not decrease cartilage and is unlikely to cause osteoarthritis.
How to Prevent Joint Cracking
Mindfulness. If you want to quit cracking your knuckles (or another joint), mindfulness is a good place to start. Keep track of time you crack your knuckles, neck, or back, and why.
Increase your physical activity. Moving more might be a simple answer. If you sit or stand in one position for an extended period of time, you may get stiff and crack your joints to relieve the stiffness. Take regular stops to get some fresh air. If you sit at a desk all day, try to get up every half-hour.
Stretching should be done gently. Gentle stretching is another option for lubricating your joints and moving the synovial fluid around. All of your joints may be stretched in both dynamic and static ways. Here are some hand stretches to try.
Stress reduction. If stress is causing your joints to crack, try alternative relaxing techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or using a stress ball or fidget toy.
Exercise. Attempt to raise your weekly exercise time to 150 minutes. Select activities that are appropriate for your age and lifestyle. You may incorporate any physical activity into your fitness program, such as housework, gardening, or short walks.
How to Stay Away From Creaky Joints
Dr. Stearns recommends getting up and moving as much as possible during the day to minimize creaky joints.
“We say motion is lotion,” explains Dr. Stearns, “because the more you move, the more your body lubricates itself.” “When you sit or lie down, the fluid in your joints doesn’t move. The more active you are, the more lubrication your joints produce.”
When should you seek medical help?
It’s time to see a doctor if your joint breaking is accompanied by discomfort, edema, or a loss of movement. It might indicate that your cartilage has been injured, a ligament or tendon has been ripped, or a nerve in your back has been pinched. It might be a sign of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in some circumstances.
For the best results, it’s preferable to identify and treat the underlying issue as soon as feasible.
Although a popping joint might be alarming, nothing has to be done in most cases (for adults or kids). Popping can happen as a result of a degenerative condition that leaves the joint vulnerable to these and other noises.
You should not be concerned unless it is followed by more worrying symptoms such as pain and edema. Cracking noises, which frequently sound like popping, might indicate conditions that require medical attention, such as gout, inflammation, or joint dislocation.
Last but not least
Cracking or popping a joint is a relatively frequent occurrence that is seldom a sign of illness. Unless you feel discomfort or swelling, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. Then it’s better to consult a doctor to figure out what’s causing the problem.
There are several competing theories concerning the physical processes that cause bone cracking.
There are solutions to attempt if your bone cracking is extreme and you wish to stop. Orthopedists recommend that you exercise more and get your synovial fluid flowing.