Cracking joints. We all do it. Sometimes unintentionally, sometimes out of habit, and sometimes to annoy our squeamish friend who equates popping knuckles to nails on a chalkboard. As yogis, you may find your joints crack even more or less than usual. But what’s really happening when we do it? And, maybe more importantly, is it bad for us?
A helpful video from Vox takes a look at what actually happens when we crack our knuckles.
Here’s a fun tip: Our knuckles make a “pop” sound because our synovial fluid (a lubricant, egg-yolky substance in between our joints) contains gases (oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide) and when we stretch out our fingers the gas builds up creating bubbles which eventually “pop.”
So is cracking our knuckles bad? Maybe yes, probably no. Vox points to one study where researcher Donald Unger intentionally cracked the knuckles on his left hand and NOT his right for sixty years. In the end he found that cracking knuckles does not cause arthritis (in his hands, anyway). Unger won the Ig Nobel Award in Medicine in 2009 for this study.
Then again, a 1990 study found that cracking knuckles can lead to hand swelling and a decrease in grip strength.
We generally see popping knuckles (and necks, ankles, etc.) as relieving pressure, which, scientifically, it kind of is. If it’s not hurting you when you do it, most in the medical field say it’s just fine.
Another fun tip: When hear pops in other joints it may be a different cause. Instead, if it’s in the knee, for example, and the pop happens when you go to stand up or squat down it could be the tendon making the snapping sound as it slides over or between your bones. Fun, right? No word on how bad/good this is for you, but a lot of times it happens without our habit of forcing it, as is often the case in knuckle cracking.
Check out the video below. Which side of the knuckle crack do you stand on?