Joints: Are my bones cracking?

Joints in the hand / fingers

When patients come for chiropractic treatment they often ask us if we are cracking their bones.

The short answer is no. The crack or popping noise often heard from an adjustment is from the joints; synovial joints to be exact.

Let us explain.

Synovial joints are the most flexible in the body and contain a viscous fluid called synovial fluid. This fluid is the texture of egg yoke and its job is to lubricate and cushion joints allowing them to gently glide past one another.

Like gasses dissolving into blood there are gasses dissolved in the synovial fluid. When you stretch a joint further than normal, you increase the joint space. There is however the same amount of synovial fluid, therefore you cause a decrease pressure in the joint. This decrease in pressure pulls the dissolved gas out of the fluid and into a bubble (much like taking the cork of a champagne bottle). The fluid then puts pressure on the bubble until it pops into smaller bubbles making the ‘popping’ sound.

These small bubbles then sit around in the joint and take 20 minutes to slowly dissolve back into the fluid. This is the reason why once you’ve popped a joint you can’t get another pop for a while.

Interestingly, Dr Donald Unger carried out a self experiment after his mother told him not to crack his knuckles as he would get arthritis. Dr Unger popped only the joints of his left hand for 50 years which equated to 36500 times! The findings of his study show no arthritis in either hand.

This won Dr Unger a Noble prize, a parody of a noble prize for crazy but interesting scientific accomplishments!

Other Useful Information

Hip bones
How tight are your hip flexors

Your hip flexors are an important muscle group. If they are tight – and therefore not moving to their full ability – your spine can become more unstable. The pressure is then added to your lower back as your muscles try to realign your spine.

Deep tissue massage treatment
How Deep Tissue Massage can Help

Deep tissue massage is a type of massage used to relieve muscle tension or limited movement of joints. This type of massage concentrates on realigning deeper layers of muscle and tissue, where the massage strokes help break down pockets of tense tissue that are causing pain. The concentrated pressure on these specific areas releases the tension, allowing for better blood flow and joint movement.

Aeroplane taking off
How to avoid back pain when flying

Anyone who is a frequent flyer will be quick to tell you that long-haul flights don’t do anything to help aches and pains, in fact they can aggravate them considerably.