Is Cracking Your Joints Bad for You?

Have you ever heard the old wives tale that cracking you knuckles will give you arthritis? At this point it almost seems like common knowledge. So is this true and if so does cracking your back or neck also cause arthritis in your spine?

Numerous studies have shown that cracking knuckles do not lead to arthritis, but there is a relationship between knuckle-cracking and hand swelling, loss of lower grip strength, ligament damage, soft tissue injuries and dislocation. This is really only the result of rapid, repeated stretching of ligaments, like what happens to major league pitchers. Risk is minimal for the rest of us.

Most people crack their back or neck due to the pressure that builds up within the spine. Usually this feels like a deep tightness that is alleviated by a quick movement of the spine which releases the buildup pressure and as the result creates the popping or cracking sound.  

This phenomenon happens when you stretch the bones apart creating space between the articular cartilage and the joint capsule. That vacuum allows more dissolved gas to enter the capsule as a bubble. When the gas bubble bursts, you hear the characteristic popping sound that we all know and some of us love. The reason you can't re-crack the involved joint immediately is that the joint needs more gas first.

So cracking your back or knuckle is not bad for you by itself, but the underlying condition that creates the need for the cracking is bad for you. If you find that you crack your back or any other joint in the body on a regular basis you should get checked out by a back specialists who can screen for spinal problems. Visit a chiropractor, physical therapist or orthopedist before your problem gets worse.