It's a wrap for this habit

It's a wrap for this habit

As long as there is no pain or swelling or change in the shape of the joint due to cracking of knuckles, there is no reason to worry


It is surprising sometimes how small, but ignorant habits can cause a major health concern in the long run. One such habit that many people do almost absent-mindedly is that of cracking their knuckles. Studies have shown that as many as 54 percent of people crack their knuckles. 

Some of the reasons due to which people tend to do so include:

Some people are just fond of the sound that knuckle cracking produces, even while they are not aware about the same.

Certain others like the way it feels. Some are under the belief that cracking of knuckles makes more room in the joint, relieving tension and increasing mobility. There is no medical evidence if cracking actually does that. When nervousness or stress shoots up some people tend to turn to cracking their knuckles.

It becomes an unconscious habit which does not demand much effort.

How does the sound occur?

There are not very specific reasons known for the pop sound that comes when knuckles are cracked. Some attribute it to the nitrogen bubbles either forming or collapsing in the joint fluid, while others believe it comes from movement of the ligaments around the knuckle. The tendons or muscles moving over the joint can also cause the sound.

Side effects

There are no major concerns surrounding the knuckle cracking. However, if cracking is painful, it leads to swelling or changes in the shape of the joint as it indicates a case of underlying gout or arthritis. In rare scenarios, there are also chances of the finger being pulled out of the joint or the ligaments around the joint being injured.

When to visit a doctor?

As long as there is no pain or swelling or change in the shape of the joint, there is no reason to worry. But if any of these signs show up or if your finger looks crooked or swollen, then one must get it evaluated by the doctor. The pain or swelling in the joints is usually due to an underlying condition. Cracking or popping, accompanied with pain or swelling, could also be a sign of the following:

Meniscus tears: Meniscus is a rubbery C-shaped disc that cushions the knee and absorbs shock but twisting or other sudden harsh movements can sometimes lead to its tear.

Cartilage wear or injury: The cartilage covering the bones can sometimes get injured and result in breaking off a piece and can cause a catch in the joint.

(The author is consultant orthopaedics,
Columbia Asia Hospital, Hebbal)

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