Pretty much every time I’ve visited a doctor’s office, tagged along to a physiotherapy appointment or came into contact with a chiropractor, I’ve asked this same question: “What’s your opinion on joint cracking?” The answer is always the same, though often not expressed with utter certainty, which I find interesting.
They have all said, in a nutshell, it’s ultimately not harmful. In my personal case, it’s not something they would worry about. Or, I should worry about. Usually, it isn’t. Basically, they say, it’s your joints reaching the end of mobility and the gasses in the synovial fluid (the fluid between joints) expanding and popping, like a bubble.
I didn’t quite understand how it could be gas making that noise, and why it felt so good afterwards. “Well, stretching anything should feel good.” said one therapist. As long as you don’t overdo it. That same therapist explained: “You’re basically stretching the joint past it’s usual range of mobility when you crack it, and the change in pressure which causes that loud popping noise, feels relieving.”
I occasionally crack my fingers, though I’m not highly keen on it, and certainly am not a habitual cracker. Those people are kind of annoying. In fact, very annoying. My main concern was with my back. My back is a major problem area and it just so happens that every time my significant other picks me up or hugs me tightly, my spine cracks like crazy, and it feels SO GOOD.
When I was working long hours as a massage therapist, I would often come home and demand one of these back-cracking bear hugs upon walking through the front door. Knowing a lot about the body, but not too much about the long-term effects of spine-cracking, I decided to do some thorough research before developing a potentially harmful addiction. (How wrong can a hug be? I mean really?)
Whilst exploring this subject both in the medical world, and otherwise, there seemed to be three common opinions which would fly around anytime the subject was brought up amongst non-medical professionals:
- One, being that cracking your joints is bad, and will give you arthritis. (This is the one that seems to be most popular.)
- The second, being that it’s good for you, and helps relieve stiff joints. (Usually believed by serial knuckle-crackers, probably due to the relieving sensation post-crack.)
- And the third, is that nothing much happens, it’s just a sound and who cares. (Usually thought by people who don’t really know, don’t really care, or have done some research into it and forgotten what they discovered, if anything, though remembered it was nothing sinister.)
Out of all of these popular and differing opinions, it’s the third one that holds the most truth. Turns out, it really IS just gas molecules expanding and popping like a bubble when we extend the joint.
Eleanor Nelson (Educator at TEDed) shows us, in illustrated animation, exactly what happens within the joints when we crack them, and reveals a 50 year-long study carried out by a man who cracked his knuckles approximately 36,500 times. To prove a point.
Maintain healthy joints by leading a holistic lifestyle
The only way to truly lower our risk in developing any type of arthritis, is to lead the healthiest life we can. Even then, we can’t be 100% protected against it. All we know how to do is lower risks of diseases and help prevent their early onset. This means keeping our joints, muscles and ligaments flexible, hydrated and nourished. It’s as simple as eating right, exercising mindfully and getting good quality rest. Funnily enough, we offer online courses in all these things!
Become qualified in what interests you!
At the School of Natural Health Sciences you can study to gain an internationally recognised diploma in Nutrition. We offer 3 foundation courses in nutrition:
We also offer an Advanced Nutrition course for all those that are already qualified.
If you’re thinking of getting serious with your stretching habits, we offer a diploma-correspondent course in Yoga which entitles you to teach anywhere in the world. We also offer a course in Meditation and Mindfulness. If it’s the workings of the body that fascinate you, try our Anatomy & Physiology course. No stress, no mess, no high expense and no commute. Schooling the holistic way!
Check out our full A-Z course list to see what other holistic health qualifications we offer