Myth-busting: Are cracking joints bad?

We have all heard someone in our life relaying the message if your crack your joints for example your knuckles you will wear them out or it will promote osteoarthritis. Research by Robertson et al 2017 wanted to know what everyone’s beliefs are regarding joint noise and their behaviours towards it. He found that people were most likely to be fearful of the noise and would avoid activities that caused joint sounds. Furthermore, negative comments from family or other health professionals have added to the fear of cracking joints. But is there any truth to this? (NO!!!) But this article will provide you with clarity on what is going on in your joints.

What causes them to crack?

Firstly, the sound completely safe and normal and should not be associated with fear. Most of the time the sound is either gas bubbles or our tendons sliding in a variety of directions that cause the cracking of the joints or that audible sound. These sounds are usually not associated with pain or decrease in functional capacity, they are apparent with moving in multiple directions.

Also, it should be noted that our joints that make this sounds will develop into a serious pathology later in life. Studies have shown that the presence of noises in the joint do not influence physical activity level, pain, and certain pathologies. But it can definitely significantly influence a patient’s perception of the pain (if uneducated on the matter), promoting a fear response result to reduction in functionality.


Should I Ever be worried about noises from my joints?

The only time we should be concerned is if the popping sound is correlated with significant pain or during a high velocity-based mechanism of injury, such as cutting or twisting while running with a resultant injury.


Final thoughts:

Being human means, we are made to move, the noises coming from our joints are fine and should not be feared. If the noise is not associated with pain, do not fear. But if pain is associated with it, we must figure out if it’s due to a mechanism of an injury as listed above or a response due to previous learning of the sound indicating damage from your previous experiences? If you would like to learn about this in further detail, the friendly practitioners at Medicine in Motion would be happy to assist and decrease your worries. Remember, rest is rust and motion is lotion and if that fails noise cancelling headphones work well too!!

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