World Arthritis Day: All you need to know about your joints

New Delhi: Snap, crackle, and pop – these sounds can either make you cringe or induce a sense of relief. This World Arthritis Day, here’s all that you need to know about cracking knuckles.

The biggest concern about cracking knuckles is that it could lead to arthritis, specifically osteoarthritis. And if one is already a patient of osteoarthritis, the cartilage within joints is progressively being damaged and the synovial fluid is typically reduced as well. The pain and joint stiffness that is felt is a result of bones
starting to come in contact with each other as cartilage and synovial fluid diminishes.

Your joints, including those in your knuckles, are surrounded by a membrane called the synovial membrane, which forms a capsule around the ends of your bones. Inside this membrane is synovial fluid, which acts as a lubricant and shock absorber so your bones don’t grind together when you move.

When you crack your knuckles or any other joint, it expands the space between your bones, creating negative pressure that draws synovial fluid into the new gap. This influx of synovial fluid is what causes the popping sound and feeling when you crack a knuckle. If you continually crack your knuckles, the synovial membrane and the surrounding ligaments will loosen, making it easier for your joints to crack.

Cracking your knuckles not only leads to arthritis but it also does have other consequences.

In a study of 300 people aged 45 and older, habitual knuckle crackers were found more likely to have hand swelling and lower grip strength. The study concluded that constant knuckle cracking will result in a disability in the functioning of the hand. The damage was likely the result of a repeated stretching and loosening of the ligaments due to repeated knuckle cracking.

There’s no specific treatment for knuckle cracking. However, it may become an obsessive habit and you may end up with damaged bones.

Dr. Palash Gupta from Max Super Speciality hospital shares some tips and tricks for breaking the habit of knuckle cracking:

-Try and keep your hands busy like twirling a pencil or a coin which might help you forget about cracking your knuckles

-If you feel like cracking your knuckles, stop and move on to a different activity

-Try tying a rubber band around your wrist and snapping it whenever you feel like cracking your knuckles

-You might need professional help to deal with the habit of knuckle cracking if it is interfering with your life.

A doctor or therapist may offer you certain forms of behavioural therapy for dealing with the condition.

Also, Dr. Aashish Chaudhry from Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital said that many of us have an opinion that cracking knuckles will lead to arthritis, but the answer is no. However, there are a number of reasons to refrain.

Sometimes joints make cracking and popping noises called crepitus. It is caused due to the presence of gas bubbles in the fluid surrounding your joints which is being released by movement of the joint.

Crepitus is harmless and does not signal a health problem like arthritis, however, if it is accompanied by pain, swelling, or immobility in the joint, one may require medical assistance.