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Cracking joints is the practice of manipulating one's joints such that they produce a sharp sound, likened to cracking (also likened to popping, etc.). The most common form of this occurs during knuckle cracking, a process different from snapping one's fingers. It is possible to crack other joints, such as vertebrae.
Additional recommended knowledge
To produce the clicking sounds, many people bend their fingers into unusual positions. These positions are usually ones that their own muscles are unable to achieve, and which are not commonly experienced in everyday use. For example, bending a finger backwards away from the palm (into extension), pulling them away from the hand (distraction), compressing a finger knuckle toward the palm (into flexion), or twisting a finger about the first bone's axis (torsion).
Cracking within the body may also be caused by a breaking bone.
Source of sound
The physical mechanism is as yet unproven, but suggested theories include:
Of these theories perhaps the most popular is cavitation. When a manipulation is performed, the applied force separates the articular surfaces of a fully encapsulated synovial joint, which in turn creates a reduction in pressure within the joint cavity. In this low pressure environment, some of the gases that are dissolved in the synovial fluid (which are naturally found in all bodily fluids) leave the solution creating a bubble or cavity, which rapidly collapses upon itself, resulting in a "clicking" sound. This process is known as cavitation. The contents of the resultant gas bubble are thought to be mainly carbon dioxide. The effects of this process will remain for a period of time known as the "refractory period", which can range from a few minutes to some hours while it is slowly reabsorbed back into the synovial fluid. There is some evidence that ligament laxity may be associated with an increased tendency to cavitate.
A single event is not enough to cause damage to the joint, although there is a hypothesis that prolonged joint stress due to cracking knuckles may eventually lead to a higher risk of joint damage. However, the long-term consequences of this practice have not been studied thoroughly, and the scientific evidence is inconclusive. The common parental advice "cracking your knuckles gives you arthritis" is not supported by any evidence, but habitual knuckle crackers are more likely to have hand swelling and lower grip strength.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Cracking_joints". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|