You may have been warned about the dangers of cracking your knuckles. Some say this could cause your knuckles to become bigger, while others say it could cause you to have arthritis when you grow older. A lot of people though pick up this habit because of stiffness or soreness though some choose to crack other joints habitually. Nevertheless, knuckles are considered the most common joints to crack.
The Science behind Cracking Your Knuckles
There have been many stories that knuckle-popping is a habit that you should break, especially the one about arthritis. Excessive cracking is said to have a bad effect on health, but is this really true? A space in your joints is filled with liquid called synovial fluid, which looks like an egg yolk. The fluid is responsible for reducing the friction in your joints whenever you make a movement. Additionally, this fluid contains gases, including carbon dioxide, oxygen, and nitrogen.
When you crack a joint, including your knuckles, you stretch out the space in your joints between your bones. As it expands, negative pressure is created, just like a vacuum and therefore it sucks the synovial fluid in. Bubbles are then formed and then they collapse, which results to the popping noise you hear whenever you crack a joint. You cannot crack the same joint again unless you wait about 20 minutes for the gas to reappear to the synovial fluid.
Is It Safe to Pop Your Knuckles?
This still remains a mystery as to whether you should stop popping your knuckles or you can continue with this habit. Most medical sources though agree that this is a safe practice and therefore there is no need to stop all that cracking, even though your friends may find it annoying. However, if you are experiencing pain, you should definitely stop. Seek help from a health care professional as well.
Donald Unger, a researcher with a Nobel Award in Medicine, decided to pop the joints in one hand while leaving the other un-popped for 60 years. This research was done to find out whether this habit could cause arthritis. After 60 years, he discovered that the results were the same – no hand had arthritis.
However, a study performed in 1990 where 300 people participated discovered that cracking knuckles for a long period of time could lead to hand swelling and reduced strength in gripping. Still, no more research has been done since this particular study.