Is it safe to crack my knuckles?
So, we get asked this question at least once a day! Is it safe to crack my knuckles? Why does my knee pop everytime time I go up stairs? Why does my hip crack when I bend down to pick up my grandkids? First lets talk about WHY they pop and crack.
Gas bubbles escaping the joint. This is the most common cause and is usually from a deliberate crack, like when you crack your knuckles. When you attempt to crack a joint, you are stretching out the ligaments, joint, and surrounding tissues which causes air to be released and results in the often satisfying noise.
Another potential cause of joint cracking or popping is when a ligament or tendon pops over the joint or bony structure. This type of popping isn’t actually the joint itself making the noise, but a tight structure passing over a hard surface (ie bone). The most common example of this would be hips. Usually when performing sit to stand or lifting up a leg, it can cause certain tendons or ligaments to shift. This can be painful if the muscle is very tight or it happens a lot. If you find this type of popping happens it is worth getting a muscle length assessment to see if any stretches are required.
Arthritis and degeneration is another potential cause of clicking and popping. With Arthitis, there can be some rough joint surfaces because some of the cushion.
Does cracking and popping joints cause harm or damage?
The question I always ask my patients is does it hurt? Most of the time, if it doesn’t hurt, do not worry about it. I also stress, if a certain movement always causes poping and cracking but is pain free do not avoid the movement. To maintain joint and muscle health, it is important to move, and move through the entire range possible for each joint. The best way to maintain joint health, strength, and integrity is exercise! Exercise can be as simple as a daily walk in your neighbourhood or as complex as power lifting. Maintaining joint health through exercise does not mean you need to be an elite athlete.
If you are concerned about your cracking or popping joints, it is definitely worth getting a physiotherapist to take a look at the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons. A physiotherapist can provide you with a targeted program to address any issues you may have!
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