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Posted on 02-24-2017


What is Joint Popping?

Popping your joints is called an articular release. When this release is audible, it produces that Rice Crispy like noise we are all so familiar with. An articular release can occur in any synovial joint, which is just a big word to say that the joint is encompassed in a fluid filled membrane that acts as a lubricant for the joint. When you crack your knuckles the joint stretches, changing the pressure of the synovial fluid in the joint. This change in pressure causes gas bubbles in the fluid to either burst or form, creating a popping noise. Once you’ve popped a joint it takes about 20 minutes for the fluid to resettle enough for you to pop them again. While any synovial joint can pop, the smaller the joint, the more likely that the articular release will be audible. That is why popping is most often heard in the spin, fingers and toes.

Why Does it Feel Good?

When you crack your knuckles, the joint temporarily becomes looser as it stretches. This can stimulate nerve endings, relax surrounding muscles, release joint tension and allow for temporary greater mobility. It is also hypothesised that endorphins are released when this sensation occurs. And of course, if you are visiting us in Boise to adjust a subluxation, the increased communication and realignment of the spine sends feelings of homeostasis and relief throughout the body.  

If you find yourself regularly cracking joints or looking for back relief it is most likely a sign of a greater underlying problem that inexperienced self manipulation (particularly from self proclaimed “back doctors”) is only temporarily relieving. Visiting a us in Boise is probably a good option because we focus on treating the underlying cause of your pain rather than temporary relief.  An increase in exercise and strength training can also provide relief for joint noises and pain as it improves joint function and strengthens surrounding muscles.   

Is it dangerous to pop your joints?

Any pain free joint popping or cracking that occurs with regular movement is typically not harmful. But there have been repeated concerns in society about knuckle cracking, the common belief being that popping knuckles will cause arthritis. Numerous studies have disproved support of this theory. In fact, some research even seems to indicate that the regular stretching of articular release may actually decrease the possibility of arthritis. It is also hypothesized that the over manipulation of a joint can lead to hypermobility, a condition in which joints become overly flexible. Not enough research however exists to form anything conclusive.  

While knuckle cracking is unlikely to lead to arthritis, there have been studies indicating that it can lead to increased inflammation and lower grip strength over time. But these studies often fail to take into consideration that habitual knuckle crackers are more likely to be involved in manual labor or might have diets or other habits such as smoking or drinking that can lead to decreased hand function. Perhaps the most dangerous consequence of habitual joint popping is the irritation experienced by those around you, as their reactions are often extreme and unpredictable!

If you do choose to pop your knuckles, protect your joints and never force a pop to happen, especially when sensitive areas such as the spine are involved. It is always better to have professional chiropractic care.

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