In an interview, chiropractor Dr. JaDean Anderson recommended that if you routinely crack your knuckles (neck, foot, elbow, etc.) that you stop.
If you don’t, don’t start.
He explained that when you crack a joint, bubbles are released from the fluid between the bones, temporarily relieving pressure (that’s why it feels good). The problem is that you may be moving things that don’t need moving and masking an underlying problem.
“Self-adjusting” may be satisfying in the short term but a professional adjustment will get to the root of any alignment problem and provide more long-term relief (remember, he’s a chiropractor–that’s what you would expect him to say).
Cracking Doesn’t Increase Your Risks of Arthritis
A study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine tested the question of whether cracking your knuckles leads or contributes to arthritis. One group of people with arthritis and one without were divided into crackers and non-crackers. What they found was that there was no statistical difference in the incidence of osteoarthritis of the hand between the two groups.
It also didn’t matter for how long the crackers had been poppin’ it. So contrary to what you may have been told about cracking your joints, there is no evidence that it causes arthritis.
But You’re not Completely Off the Hook…
Another study in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases did find that people who crack their fingers and hand joints eventually lose grip strength:
“…habitual knuckle crackers were more likely to have hand swelling and lower grip strength. Habitual knuckle cracking was associated with manual labour, biting of the nails, smoking, and drinking alcohol. It is concluded that habitual knuckle cracking results in functional hand impairment.”
In accordance with Dr. Anderson, some people swear by chiropractic adjustments and have experienced great relief; sometimes our skeletal alignment gets out of whack and we need a little help with putting it right. For minor to medium adjustments, consider massage therapy by a registered therapist.
Massage is less jarring than chiropractic. Not a Swedish spa rub-a-dub, therapeutic massage works with the whole structure of the body, including bone and muscle alignment and fascial and joint mobilization. Through slow hands-on manipulation, a massage therapist can release restrictions wherever in the body they are found, providing instant and long-lasting relief. Through exercise and mindfulness, a therapist will coach you in ways to prevent recurrence.
Back to the Knuckle-Cracking.
Cracking finger joints won’t cause arthritis but over time it can affect your ability to grip with your fingers; as far as other joints, one can extrapolate that similar consequences might result in other parts of the body such as the neck or feet. A good enough reason to stop. Maybe more than that, if you are a habitual joint cracker, rest assured that everyone around you finds it tremendously annoying.