Crack My Back & Knuckles!

I have a close friend who has a tendency to crack her back on a daily basis. She would even hold on to doorframe to crack her lower back. Her mom freaks out each time she cracks her own back. This made me wonder, if there is anyone else out there that is skeptical towards cracking his or her back.

Is it safe to crack your own back and knuckles?
The answer is YES. However, let me take this one step at a time. I am pretty sure, you all heard that cracking your knuckles would give you arthritis. If this is true, cracking your back must cause arthritis of your spine. The reality is, cracking doesn’t lead to arthritis by any means.

So what is this loud popping sound? You have many bones in your body. A joint is the place where two bones meet. It is usually wrapped in a joint capsule that is field with a fluid, a.k.a synovial fluid, that is filled with oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. When you crack you back, knuckles or any other joint, you stretch the capsule and increase the space. This will lead to a decrease in synovial fluid pressure. As a consequence, very small gas bubbles will form in the capsule and then merge into a bigger bubble. The fluid rushes in to the big bubble and pops it. This is when, you will hear the cracking sound. These bubbles are harmless, as they quickly get absorbed back in the synovial fluid.

At this point, I am hoping that you are thinking: why can’t you crack your joints several times in a row? This is because the space in the joint, needs fifteen minutes to get back to it’s original size. Also, this time is required for gasses to dissolve back into fluid, to be able to make bubbles again.

Should you stop cracking your back and knuckles?
I burst into laughter, the first time I heard Donald L. Unger’s story. He won an Ig Nobel Award in medicine, in 2009, for proving that cracking your knuckles does not cause arthritis. As a child, his mother always told him that cracking his fingers would lead to arthritis. He decided to crack the knuckles on his left hand at least twice a day and leave the knuckles on his right hand uncracked for 60 years. The end result was, no arthritis in either hand.

Most studies show that cracking your joints is safe. However, you need to know that in 1990, a research showed that people who were addicted to cracking their knuckles were more prone to hand swelling and had weaker grip. Also, there are reports that cracking can lead to self-inflicted injuries. Lastly, Some experts report possibility of stroke is women who engage in self-cracking. [my advice: see a Chiropractor to crack your neck. To give my fellow colleagues credit, Naturopaths are trained to do simple adjustments as well.]

Overall, research shows that whether you crack your joints because you enjoy the sensation, or as a nervous habit, you are safe and no harm faces you.However, if you need to crack your back often, try to find the underlying reason behind your joints misalignment. If you feel like you need to crack your joint more often compare to before, it can be a sign that the underlying reason is getting worse.
Dr. Z
Picture taken from: http://pilladvised.com/2010/05/the-soy-luck-club/

Author resumes no liability for incorrect information or any action reader decides to take based on the information on this blog post. This blog post is only author’s personal input on the topic and by no means entails any medical advice.