Although engaging in cracking bones is unlikely to result in harm, it also does not inherently offer any advantageous outcomes. Everyone is familiar with knuckle crackers. If you are one of them, you likely spent your childhood hearing well-intentioned adults advise you to stop before you inflict joint harm.
You may also experience a sense of relief as an adult by cracking your neck or back; however, this raises the question of its safety and causes. Consider the following information.
Cracking Bones: Probably safe
Decades of medical debate have surrounded the cause of that “popping” sound produced by joints. Formerly attributed to the rupture of a bubble within the synovial fluid enveloping the joints, the disturbance is now believed to result from the formation of a negative space, or cavity, in the fluid, according to new research.
The sound of knuckle cracking does not trigger osteoarthritis, a joint wear and strain condition, according to research. Despite what your granny may have heard, knuckle crackers do not increase arthritis risk.
Although some research has indicated that knuckle cracking may result in hand swelling and diminished grip strength, the evidence is weak, and these results have not been replicated in other studies. Such a crack is not expected to result in any lasting injury.
“Only a few clinical studies have examined hand knuckle cracking,” says Rachel Lefebvre, MD, an assistant professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and orthopaedic surgeon at Keck Medicine of USC. The evidence suggests that knuckle cracking does not cause joint damage or arthritis.
Back or neck cracking: leave it to the experts.
What about fractures in the back and neck? Our propensity for staring down at our phones all day, which results in “text neck,” and our sedentary lifestyles that involve spending the entire day seated at our workstations may cause us to experience neck or back pain. It appears that the sense of relief one experiences following a successful split improves the experience, although some research suggests this could be a placebo effect.
Although it is probably acceptable to self-crack your neck or back on occasion, do not delegate this task to a friend; they may apply excessive pressure that could result in injury. It is prudent to exercise caution when discussing the spine; therefore, have your back or neck adjusted exclusively by a licensed physical therapist or chiropractor.
Even so, research suggests that neck manipulations may, in extremely uncommon instances, result in a stroke; therefore, individuals who are at an increased risk of stroke should inform their practitioner. Additionally, consult your physician if you have any concerns regarding the potential hazards associated with these procedures.
“The evidence regarding whether or not neck cracking can cause damage is fairly inconclusive,” says Raymond J. Hah, MD, an assistant professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School and orthopaedic surgeon at the USC Spine Centre of Keck Medicine. “There is no evidence that neck or back cracking constitutes a disc degeneration risk factor.”
In lieu of consulting a professional, alternative home remedies that do not involve cracking may prove efficacious in alleviating neck and back discomfort. Massage or rub your back, or administer cold or heat. Even better, remember to stretch periodically to avoid the soreness and pains that result from prolonged sitting. Additionally, individuals with joint issues can benefit from exercise, so be sure to stay active.
If you experience agony, consult a physician.
A painful neck, back, or knuckle fracture would be an exception to the rule that such cracks are generally non-painful. Such a scenario might involve a structural issue pertaining to the joint or its environs, such as ligament injury or torn cartilage. Tendonitis or another condition, such as arthritis, may also contribute to the presence of pain accompanied by cracks. Consult your physician regarding the underlying cause of joint fracture discomfort in order to acquire relief.