Do you feel a constant need to pop your knuckles, to roll your neck, or to bend your elbow until you hear the satisfying crack? Do you worry that the popping sounds are bad for your joints? Well, fret no longer. According to Dr. Aman Dhawan, an orthopedic sports medicine specialist from Penn State Health’s Milton Hershey Medical Center, it’s completely normal for joints to make those noises.
The sounds have varying causes. For instance, soft tissues, such as tendons and ligaments, move against other tissues and bones, resulting in a crackling sound. Dhawan said in a Penn State press release that since “our joints are mobile,…there is the potential for anatomy to intersect.” Additionally, popping may result from pockets of nitrogen gas in between the joints. To explain, your body naturally produces fluid to fill and lubricate joints, as well as provide nutrition to cartilage. So occasionally, the fluid creates air pockets that pop when released.
The only time to be concerned about crackling sounds is if it’s accompanied by pain and swelling. So fear not, there’s no link between popping sounds and arthritis. Moreover, cracking joints does not cause swelling or arthritis.
If the popping is still of some concern, however, the doctors at Hershey Medical Center advise some beneficial stretching, strength exercises, and low-impact exercises like swimming. It’s also important to maintain a healthy weight so as to reduce stress on joints.
“There is good data to support getting rid of excess weight because it does improve pain in the joints of the lower extremities, as well as decreases your risk of getting arthritis or of having it progress,” Dhawan said. “The joints carry the weight of our bodies, so the less stress you put on them, the longer they will stay healthy.”
So while popping your knuckles or neck may irritate nearby listeners, there’s really no evidence to prove that cracking damages joints. However, if you do begin to notice swelling and pain, make an appointment to see your doctor. Don’t forget to be prepared for any and all medical expenses; contact an agent today to enroll in a health insurance plan that meets your needs!
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