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Joint Cracking: Harmless or Hazard?

By Krista Elliott

For some people, getting up in the morning reminds them of a bowl of Rice Crispies. Not because that’s what they want for breakfast, but because that first stretch in the morning produces snaps, crackles and pops from their back, spine, shoulders, toes, and more.

I’m not going to lie; it can be satisfying as heck to feel all those joints popping. But is it harmless? When does joint popping become worrisome?

When It’s Harmless

In most cases, it’s harmless if your joints crack or pop occasionally. For the most part, the cracking sound is caused by bubbles of gas in the synovial fluid in our joints. It takes awhile for these bubbles to re-form. If your knuckles crack, and then you can’t crack them again for awhile, this is why.

As a general rule, if your joints crack from natural motion, without any discomfort or swelling, you can assume it's harmless. So when you get up from your desk after a long work session, stretch your spine, and feel that pleasant, mild popping? You can relax and just enjoy it.

When It’s Harmful

In some cases, joint popping is caused by more serious conditions. If the cracking is accompanied by a rubbing or grinding noise (or if you get little crackling sensations or sounds every single time you move the joint), it may be a sign of arthritis. That grinding or crackling can be a sign of the breakdown of cartilage.

If the popping happens mostly every time you move the joint, that’s not caused by air bubbles. Instead, it could be from a joint restriction or subluxation, or a misaligned tendon that snaps when you move. These issues typically show up in our most mobile joints, like our knees, ankles, and shoulders.

Lastly, any popping that you make happen is harmful. So if your back cracks from a gentle stretch, fine. Cracking your own back, or getting a friend to do it? Not fine. You could damage your joints and permanently damage ligaments by forcing the joint beyond its normal range of motion. The same principle applies to all of your joints, so inveterate knuckle-crackers should find a way to break the habit.

Not sure about the condition of your joints? Visit The Joint Chiropractic today, and a professional chiropractor will work with you to assess your joint health. As well, routine chiropractic care will help ensure that your joints stay as healthy and aligned as possible, helping to reduce any harmful incidences of snapping or cracking.

 To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic.

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