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Can Popping Your Joints Cause Arthritis?

Can you believe all those things Mom used to tell you? What about what she said about cracking your knuckles? Could that really give you arthritis or is it just something she made up to get you to stop making that annoying noise?

There are a lot of medical myths floating around these days thanks to the Internet — and we”l start with the real truth behind cracking knuckles.

What Happens When You Crack Your Knuckles?

The need to pop your joints is a medical mystery. No one really knows why this phenomenon exists or its purpose. The mechanics behind joints cracking is well understood, though. A joint is an intersection where two bones connect. The human body has around 360 joints that bring bones together to form a skeleton that is able to bend and move freely.

Joints are surrounded by a membrane full of fluid. The membrane serves to protect the bone caps from friction damage as you move. When you yank on a joint trying to pop it, you create negative space that pulls in some of the fluid. That popping sound that makes Mom cringe is the influx of that fluid.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a painful medical condition that involves inflammation of the joints. There are a variety of causes and joint damage is certainly one of them. Daily wear and tear of a joint can lead to the most common type of arthritis called osteoarthritis. This is something most people experience as they age. However, there is no proof that it is related to cracking knuckles.

So, Is Joint Cracking Harmful?

Joint cracking is a good news/bad news scenario. The good news is popping your joints does not cause arthritis. The bad news is the more you crack them, the looser the membranes and ligaments, a connective tissue that holds the joints together, become. Medical science is not sure if that is dangerous or not. Common sense would indicate that stressing the elements that protect your joints is something to avoid.

Popping your knuckles and other joints is a habit, too. The urge to do it might overcome common sense the more you reinforce that habit. If a joint doesn’t pop easily, you might push it too far and cause pain — and pain is a warning sign that something is wrong. As with most things, moderation is the key. You never want to crack a joint if it is painful or with excessive force. Cracking is not a remedy for anything, either. If your back hurts, visit a medical professional and find out why.

And, if it annoys your mother, then cracking your knuckles might be a good habit to break.