Is Knuckle Cracking Bad?

By: Doron Ilan, MD

Between 25-50% of people will crack their knuckles at some point.  In some of these people it becomes habitual. Parents across the world have been telling their kids (and spouses) “Don’t crack your knuckles. You are going to get arthritis!” Is this true? What is actually happening when someone cracks their knuckles? 

What happens when you crack your knuckles?

Our knuckle joints (metacarpo-phalangeal joints) are synovial joints. Meaning there are two cartilage covered bones that meet each other and are surrounded by a joint capsule which contains synovial fluid (lubricant). When our joints move normally the synovial fluid lubricates the ultra-smooth cartilage and the bones glide silently over each other. When someone pops their knuckle, the pressure exerted on the joint and synovial fluid forces dissolved gases out of the synovial fluid. This creates what is called a cavitation bubble. This forms very quickly and explosively. This cavitation bubble then pops. It is believed that the sound of knuckle cracking is due to the formation or popping of the cavitation bubble. This would be similar to either the opening of a champagne bottle (sound caused by formation of the bubbles) or popping bubble wrap (sound caused by popping the bubble). To this day, we are still not 100% sure which one it is. The thing we are sure about is that knuckle popping is not due to bone rubbing on bone or tendons popping.

Are all sounds coming from a joint due to gases?

No. In arthritis (loss of cartilage) you can get a crunching sound called crepitus as bone rubs on bone. Some people have loose joints and the joint can sublux or partially dislocate. A tendon can shift over a moving joint and cause a pop or clunk. A torn labrum (hip or shoulder) or meniscus (knee) can also cause popping in a joint. Note:  If you have pain associated with any noise from a joint you should consult your doctor.   

Is knuckle cracking bad for you? Does it cause arthritis?

This may come as a shocker to parents everywhere but there is no evidence that knuckle cracking is bad for you or causes arthritis. It is certainly annoying and there have been case reports where people tried to crack their knuckles with such force that they caused a sprain or fracture, but despite multiple studies it appears that routine knuckle cracking is safe. There was even one doctor (Donald Unger) who decided to do a study on himself. He cracked the knuckles on one of his hands for 50 years while not cracking the other. He found no difference between the two hands in the end.  

So go ahead and crack your knuckles.  Just don’t do it around me. 

For more from the experts at Northeast Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

Robotic Knee Replacement: Everything you need to know

NEOSM’s Dr. Jordan Simon recently sat down with Montefiore Nyack Hospital to share all you need to know about robotic knee replacement surgery. This advancement in medical technology helps guide skilled surgeons to ensure positive patient outcomes.

Click on the video below to watch the presentation.

At Northeast Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, our physicians are leaders in their fields and continually apply the latest technological advances in medicine to their care. To find out more, contact us today.

Hudson Valley Top Doctors 2020

We are immensely proud to announce the NEOSM physicians named to Hudson Valley magazine’s list of Top Doctors for 2020. The providers at Northeast Orthopedics and Sports Medicine are dedicated to providing exceptional, compassionate care to our community every day. Congratulations to the following doctors recognized for excellence in their fields. Thank you for being the best of the best!

Orthopedic Surgery

Kenneth Austin, MD
Marc Berezin, MD
William Davis Jr, MD
Barry Kraushaar, MD
Mark Medici, MD
Patrick Murray, MD
Steven Renzoni, MD
Richard Semble, MD
Jordan Simon, MD

Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

Michael Robinson, MD

Rheumatology

Shivani Purohit Mehta, MD

Sports Medicine

Richard Popowitz, MD

Congratulations to you all! If you’d like to make an appointment for consultation with one of our talented physicians, please call an office near you.

At-Home Relief for Tight Hamstrings

Did you know lower back pain, hip and knee issues, poor posture and other problems can be associated with tight hamstrings? The hamstrings are a group of three muscles located in the back of the thigh. When these muscles are tight, or inflexible, they can cause discomfort beyond pain in the immediate area.  If it’s difficult to touch your toes without bending your knees, either from standing or when seated on the floor, you may be suffering from tight hamstrings. So what can you do to feel some relief?

Prevention

A common cause of tight hamstrings is being in a seated position for prolonged amounts of time. Too much sitting means your hamstrings are constantly flexed, so it’s important to give those muscles a chance to elongate. Take breaks to stand up, walk around or do some stretching.

Equally important is the time you give to stretching before and after you exercise. Proper warm up and cool down of your hamstrings can prevent injury.

Stretches

Consistent stretching is a great way to relieve tight hamstrings. Here are some stretches to try at home.

  • Simple Hamstring Stretch

Seated on the floor with both legs straight out, reach forward while bending at the hip towards your toes, being careful not to overly round your back. Hold for up to 30 seconds.

  • Hamstring Stretch with Strap

While lying flat on the floor, place a strap or towel around the bottom of your foot, hold on to each end in your hands. Slowly extend your leg so the bottom of your foot is raised towards the ceiling while keeping your knee straight. Your other leg should be extended on the ground. Hold for up to 30 seconds. Repeat with your other leg.

  • Standing Hamstring Stretch

While standing, cross one foot over the other. Bend at the waist and slowly lower your upper body toward your knees, careful not to bend your knees. Hold for up to 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

It’s always key to listen to your body. If you are experiencing prolonged pain, it may be a sign of a more serious issue. Contact us to meet with one of our orthopedic specialists for a consultation.

The “Wreck-less Checklist” for Distracted Driving

Here are the facts:

  • An estimated 400,000 people were injured in accidents due to distracted driving in 2018. (NHTSA)
  • Distracted driving leads to 1.6 million crashes per year. (National Safety Council)

As an orthopedic practice, we treat a number of serious injuries related to car accidents, ones that affect a patient’s life forever. It is particularly painful to know that some of these injuries could have been prevented if a driver involved wasn’t unnecessarily distracted. That’s why the Auto Alliance and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons teamed up to lead the Decide to Drive initiative. Their mission is to educate the public on the dangers of distracted driving and provide tools to keep the focus on the road.

One such tool is the “Wreck-less Checklist”. Committing to these 9 actions to before driving can literally save lives. And they want to remind you: the four most advanced safety features are two eyes on the road and two hands on the wheel.

Source: DecidetoDrive.org

The physicians at NEOSM urge you to take this checklist into practice and be safe on the road.

Dr. Simon Talks Hip Replacement for USA TODAY

NEOSM’s own Dr. Jordan Simon shares with USA TODAY everything you need to know about Hip Replacement Surgery, as director of The Joint Replacement Center at Montefiore Nyack Hospital.

Click Here to Read the Article in USA TODAY.

If you or someone you know is experiencing hip pain, feel free to call our offices for a consultation with one of our skilled joint replacement specialists like Dr. Simon.