Is Cracking in Your Joints Dangerous?
For some of us, joint cracking is a part of daily life. When we bend over our backs may crack, when we twist, a knee may make a snapping noise and some of us even induce this cracking in our fingers or elsewhere. The cracking can be loud, even heard by others and can be quite jarring. But is it necessarily a bad thing? The short answer is no, it usually isn’t a sign of something wrong, but the answer goes a little deeper.
Before we go any further, it is important to discuss what exactly the cracking indicates. Every joint in our body contains fluid between the joints. This fluid allows for the proper movement of the joint and protects it from a host of potential problems. It is believed that when these nitrogen bubbles release and pop, we can hear a sometime loud cracking noise, called cavitation. A popping sensation can also indicate a tight muscle or tendon rubbing against other structures in or around the joint when we move. So, first, it is important to know that the crack is likely not a structural problem and has nothing to do with the bone actually cracking or fracturing.
When Can Cracking Be a Problem?
However, there are times where this cracking can be slightly more concerning. First is when the cracking happens very often. The air bubbles in the synovial fluid usually take about 10 or 15 minutes to form. If the cracking is constant – it happens every time you move in that direction, it could signify an issue that needs to be address.
The other telltale sign that something may be awry is pain. Whenever we feel pain, it is not normal. Pain is not necessarily the sign of a serious injury but is a prompt to have the cracking looked at more closely by an orthopedic surgeon. Certainly, if the pain is persistent or if you feel any numbness, weakness, tingling or other odd sensation along with the cracking, an immediate trip to an orthopedic specialist or the ER should be made.
Bear in mind, that many of the noises, cracking and popping in our body may be due to not getting enough exercise. You may hear the term “motion is lotion” from your orthopedic surgeon or physical therapist and that is certainly the case. A more active body is one that will function more smoothly as well.
Ultimately, while cracking may be very satisfying, and typically not problematic, it should be done sparingly. Anything that puts unnecessary strain on our joints can and should be avoided. Of course, if you have any unusual sensations, if the cracking is persistent or if you feel other sensations such as grinding or locking, do make an appointment with your orthopedic surgeon to understand more about its cause and get a proper diagnosis.