Admit it; you love the sound your fingers make whenever you crack or stretch them. Yet does this near-irresistible urge set one up for pain and arthritis in the long term? That may not necessarily be the case, according to Dr. Pedro K. Beredjiklian, chief of hand surgery at The Rothman Institute.
Before anything else, it’s important to get an idea of what makes the cracking sound. To do that, you need to understand the workings of your fingers.
The human skeleton is home to hundreds of joints that allow certain body parts, like your fingers, to bend and move. However, movement would likely be rough, if not downright difficult, without seamless movement in these joints—a job that falls upon the synovial membrane.
Whereas motor oil lubricates your car’s engine, the joints rely on synovial fluid. This fluid, produced by the joints themselves, allows them to move without grinding against each other, thereby reducing wear and tear. The average human body contains at least 0.24 ml of synovial fluid with a pH level comparable to water.
Letting Off Gas
Being sandwiched between bones exerts pressure on the capsule that contains the synovial fluid like a water bag. Knuckle cracking can be seen as a good way to relieve that pressure. As K. Aleisha Fetters of Fox News reports:
“When you push or pull your fingers to crack them, what you’re really doing is stretching the capsule that surrounds the joint. That decreases the pressure inside the capsule, causing gasses that were dissolved in the synovial fluid (such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and oxygen) to release into the empty space to equalize the pressure.”
All the same, you may want to visit a pain clinic in Memphis, TN—like Chiropractic-Memphis, for instance—in the event that you do develop arthritis symptoms and consequently experience a great deal of pain. Otherwise, you can rest easy knowing that this habit is not necessarily linked to an increased risk of arthritis.
“In possibly the best proof of concept ever, Donald L. Unger, M.D. cracked the knuckles on his left hand—but never on his right—every day for more than sixty years, without any consequences. In 2009, he even won an Ig Nobel Prize (a parody of the Noble Prize) in medicine for that little self-study.”
While there have been cases of unusual pain following knuckle cracking, experts say the cases are few and far in between. In any case, be sure to exercise moderation when it comes to your knuckle cracking habit and to visit a reputable Memphis pain clinic in case you experience an unusual amount of pain elsewhere, be it in the neck, back, wrist, shoulder, or jaw.
(Source: “Health myth: Is cracking your knuckles really bad for you?” Fox News, March 13, 2014)