We've all sat next to that guy who's always cracking his knuckles or neck. Maybe you are that guy. You probably have also heard a plethora of myths about what cracking your joints means or what it can do to you: “It’ll make your joints stop moving”, “It means your bones are smacking into each other”, or “People that crack their joints end up in walkers before the age of fifty.” You should know that none of these are true, though you probably have your own unique myth in mind.
Sometimes cracking your joints can make you feel relieved. Sometimes it can leave you even more stiff and achy. Before you crack your knuckles, let’s learn what is really going on in there.
What does it mean?
The reason there are so many myths floating around about joint cracking is because doctors are not yet positive about what the sound means. They have their own, more educated guesses that I would venture to say are closer to being on the right track. According to these doctors, cracking most likely occurs from the tightening of the ligaments within the joint, either being quickly tightened or being snapped around the joint. The other likely theory is that the nitrogen bubbles inside in joint’s fluid are quickly being pushed out. (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
What are the consequences?
Unless there is pain involved, cracking your joints is most likely not causing any damage. So no, cracking your knuckles is not going to leave you with freaky, bulbous hands when you are eighty. When your knees crack as you bend down does not mean you have an early onset of disease. Cracking your joints is common and is probably not affecting you in any way.
However, do be cautious when cracking sensitive areas of your body, such as your back and neck. The neck especially should only be cracked by or in the company of a professional. Jerking these areas of the body in order to feel a satisfying crack can leave you injured, feeling sore, or worse when done incorrectly or too forcefully.
Cracking your joints can likely be explained by something as simple as ligaments being tightened and liquids being moved inside the body. Doctors theorize that you are not causing your body any damage by cracking your joints. However, be sure to use caution.