Cracking bones is a very common practice, mainly because we use it to “unlock them”. However, different studies indicate that it is dangerous to do this.
Next, we will talk about the reasons that make such studies reach this conclusion. As well as explain what happens when we hear this sound so particular in bones.
Why do fingers snap?
This sound we hear when we crack the bones of our fingers, wrists or any other part of the body is due to the bursting of bubbles present in the fluid that covers the joints.
It is good to know that the joints are the place of contact between bones and are covered by thick synovial fluid.
When we snap, stretch, or bend a finger, for example, the joint separates and the capsule that surrounds that joint elongates and increases in volume, reducing pressure.
When this happens, the dissolved gases in the synovial fluid form balls, which when they explode produce this particular pop.
Furthermore, the gas takes approximately half an hour to dissolve in the liquid; therefore, when we snap a joint it is advisable not to repeat the action again for thirty minutes.
Probable Problems When Cracking Bones
Regarding the risks of this very common habit, it is worth saying that there is not much scientific research. What happened was an attempt to evaluate several people who usually break their bones. In order to find out if they had either joint damage, or problems like arthritis or osteoarthritis.
What this study found was that the fingers of the hand showed signs of damage, such as soft tissue damage and decreased strength in holding things.
This appears to be linked to the stretching and rapid, repetitive contractions of the ligaments in the joints.
But, a true fact is that there is greater mobility after we crack the bones and a relaxation of the joints.
That’s why many people keep this habit as a daily action. Other people often turn to a specialist called a chiropractor, whose goal is to “organize” or “reset” the bones so that there is no tension.
Those who undergo this treatment indicate that they feel looser, lighter, and less contracted or sore.
snapping fingers causes muscle wasting
Some researchers claim that this is the main consequence of the act of cracking bones, especially the fingers.
However, beware, as this problem usually afflicts people who do not practice physical activity; as it is the only time of day when muscles and joints are stretched.
Lack of movement weakens your muscles, so it feels like they’re pressured or tired. This causes a kind of vicious cycle, where the person clicks his fingers again to feel a relaxation for a few hours, until repeating the movement.
We often try to relieve pain or contractures with this movement; but it is also necessary to consider that this is something sudden, unconscious and unbalanced for our joints.
Contrary to popular belief, this movement does not release muscle tension but serves to spill more synovial fluid; which is the natural lubricant that prevents friction between bones.
This can not only wear out the bones, but also increase the likelihood that they will break or fracture.
May cause stiffness
In addition, this gesture can also cause stiffness, deformation of the injured part, and excessive pain that disappears when we rest.
Those who suffer most from this problem are adults over the age of forty, and the regions in which the most wear and tear due to the cracking action of bones are the hands (fingers and wrists) and the neck.
The best way to avoid this problem is to exercise, always considering your age and physical condition. Walking or swimming are the most suitable exercises to deal with this type of problem.
Activities that promote muscle strength and flexibility are also advised; since they allow us to increase our tolerance to perform all kinds of tasks without harming our joints or overloading them.
After the age of thirty, we start to lose elasticity in the tissues, so it is necessary to avoid or reduce bad habits: such as sedentary lifestyle and incorrect posture in front of the computer or television.
Can cracking bones cause arthritis?
Many wonder if the habit of cracking bones can contribute to the development of arthritis.
Although this was mentioned above, the fact is that repeating this action every day for many years theoretically damages the cartilage.
One of the best-known studies on this subject was done by Dr. Donald Unges, who for over 60 years maintained the habit of snapping the fingers of his left hand twice a day, without repeating the action on his right hand.
Annually he examined his hands and never found any traces of degenerative diseases (including the cracking hand).
Another survey interviewed thirty elderly people in a nursing home in Los Angeles. Those who had snapped their fingers throughout their lives did not develop osteoarthritis.
In a third study, this time with adults in their 45s in Detroit, it was found that the problem was focused on the strength to hold things together.
That is, those who used to snap their fingers had less strength; and in more than 80% of cases, they suffered from swelling in their hands.
That’s why it’s advisable not to keep the habit, not to make it frequent, even if once in a while, to release tension, cracking the bones doesn’t seem to be a big problem.