Why can’t I stop cracking my joints? Experts explain

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Whether you habitually crack your knuckles or your right knee occasionally pops, chances are you at least know the feeling of a joint making a silly sound, then feeling a smooth, instant release of pressure. But what actually happens in the body when you crack a joint?

First, think about how joints generally move. When you break one of these, you’re essentially extending the joint beyond its normal range of motion, as SELF has previously reported. When this happens, experts believe the gases inside the fluid that lubricates the seal escape via small bubbles that burst, causing that characteristic cracking or popping sound.

It’s not the only thing that can produce sounds in your body, however. “Tendons or ligaments sliding over bony surfaces can reproduce a similar type of sound,” Elizabeth Nguyen, MD, a board-certified physiatrist in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, tells SELF. People with arthritis can also hear noises sometimes due to bone-to-bone friction, she adds.

The question of whether joint popping is good or bad for you has prevailed for years. If you’re constantly cracking your fingers, someone has probably told you that the habit can cause arthritis, a claim that’s proven to be untrue, Dr. Nguyen says. Yet it’s easy to wonder if cracking your joints over and over and more again is harmful in any way, especially if you constantly feel the need to release the feeling of pressure in your joints, knees, neck, back, or anywhere, really.

Below, experts explain why it’s all so nice and whether a cycle of cracking your joints is really something to worry about.

Why is cracking a joint so good?

Popping or cracking a joint can help relieve tension that builds up due to lack of movement, Drew Schwartz, DC, a chiropractic physician at the Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. “Your body loves movement,” he explains. “The more he can move, the better he feels.” Muscle imbalance — which occurs when one set of muscles becomes weaker than its opposite side of muscles — could also be a factor in this buildup of tension.

“Pop feels good because [the joint] gets some movement there, but the tension will come back after the pop. It only feels good for a second,” says Schwartz, adding, “It can be habit-forming because there’s some satisfaction in it.

Of course, cracking your joints isn’t a long-term solution if one area of ​​your body is constantly stiff, Schwartz warns, and it shouldn’t be done if you’re in legitimate pain. Ultimately, if you regularly experience pressure, tightness, or pain in a certain area of ​​your body, you may need to be evaluated by a medical professional, says Dr. Nguyen, especially if it starts to interfere. with your daily life. “In these situations, there may be an underlying problem,” she adds.

So…should I stop cracking my joints?

Once you get into the routine of cracking your joints, it can be hard to get out of it. But, to be clear, you’re not necessarily hurting anything. So as long as you don’t feel any pain, you don’t technically need to stop if you don’t want to, Tamara Huff, MD, FAAOSorthopedic surgeon at Vigeo Orthopedics, says SELF. (If he starts to feel uncomfortable in any way, you should definitely stop.)

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