Culture Magazine

Cracking Joints, Is It Bad For You?

By Ballerinablogger
This is a very popular question around my home and dance school. If you're a dancer or have been a dancer, one thing you'll find is that as you age your joints will snap, crackle and pop more and more. I'm sixteen and my joints already crack on their own. Just by moving my arm my shoulder will pop or shifting the way I sit my spine will crack. I also have the bad habit of frequently cracking my knuckles which is said to lead to arthritis. To ease my own curiosity as well as inform my lovely readers, I'm going to do a bit of research on the subject.
Knuckle Cracking
Does it cause arthritis? The answer is no. Studies have been done and there seems to be no relation between cracking your knuckles and arthritis in your hand. When you crack, gases are quickly being released from a synovial fluid which serves as a lubricant for your joints. Although it seems like your joints are literally cracking, it's just a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide quickly escaping the synovial fluid.
Although cracking your knuckles may not lead to arthritis, it is associated with damage to ligaments that surround the joint, hand-swelling, lower grip strength and dislocation of tendons as well as soft tissue injuries. So is it good for you? The answer is also, no.
Cracking Joints, Is It Bad For You?
Neck Cracking
Although it doesn't happen quite as often, my neck snaps... Loudly. When I'm feeling really stiff, tense or uncomfortable I tilt my head side to side and it snaps from the base on up. Usually when I do side port de bras to and away from the barre it will crack as well. I've been to physical therapy, not for this particular problem but the therapists' reaction was quite interesting. He asked me to lay down and open and close my jaw. I did as he said and he closely observed me.
"You snap your neck, don't you?" He asked.
"Yes."
This put my mother, who was present at the time, into a tizzy because she absolutely hates it when I snap my neck. She was hoping he would then tell me how bad it was and advise me to stop immediately. However, the physical therapist proceeded to explain that I was hyper-mobile which means the ligaments are lax and my joints move more than they should. In order to compensate for this flexibility, the muscles tighten up to stabilize the joints, which is the cause of the stiffness I feel. Usually I would then crack my neck and stretch the muscles and momentarily I would feel more relaxed. However this stretches out the loose ligaments even more and the muscles will promptly tighten back up again. He told me that occasionally, if I really feel the need to snap my neck and stretch it out then it is okay to do so, but it's best to do it as infrequently as possible.
Ankle Cracking
From the research that I've conducted, ankle cracking doesn't seem to be a major issue, especially if you're not cracking your ankles manually. (Although there wasn't much information on the subject)
Back Cracking
We also discussed this subject in my physical therapy session. Cracking your back isn't as much of a worry as neck cracking because when your back snaps, it's realigning itself. The therapist explained that, sometimes, my back literally needs to crack. If I don't crack it on purpose then it will crack on its own because my body isn't always aligned. He showed me some safe methods to crack my back and although he discouraged cracking frequently he recognized that sometimes it needs to be done. If you need your back to be cracked by someone else then I would definitely recommend seeing a chiropractor.
Thanks for reading! If you have any comments or questions then let me know in a comment below!
Ballerinablogger ~

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COMMENTS ( 1 )

By evan @knuckle cracking
posted on 12 November at 19:04
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Yes. I agree with your assessment of the harm that knuckle cracking does. Arthritis may not be a concern, but the damage done to your finger joints is very real. As for back cracking, I know too many people who wish they'd never done it. More harm from it than good.

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