'Knuckle cracking' - does is cause osteoarthritis?

'Cracking' or 'popping' joints appears to be very common, especially amongst teenagers, and is often habitual. But does it cause any damage to the joints?

Joints can click due to a number of reasons, such as:-

# pressure changes within the joint

# osteoarthritis

# tendons snapping over tissue

# cartilage injury

# inflamed tissues

Firstly, it is important to know that 'clicking' your joints does not cause pain. If this is so, then it is important you are assessed by a qualified health professional. Now, research states that repetitively clicking joints does not lead to osteoarthritis, and that is something that concerns a lot of parents who's children 'crack' their joints all day, everyday. The clicking you hear is a result of negative pressure pulling nitrogen gas temporarily into the joint capsule.

So why do people do it?

When a joint clicks due to a pressure change, there is an effect on the local nerve endings causing the surrounding muscles to relax. Over a period of time, the joint will feel stiff and so they will 'crack' the joint again for that release. This notion then becomes habitual, and may be disturbing to those around them. It is a difficult habit to stop, but raising your awareness and stopping yourself before you do it takes time and practice.