Most peo­ple do ha­bit­ual crack­ing of joints to ex­pe­ri­ence sub­jec­tive re­lief, writes VIWE NDON­GENI

The Star Early Edition - - VERVE LIFESTYLE -

Many peo­ple are fa­mil­iar with a snap, crackle and a pop in joints af­ter a run, jog and maybe af­ter sit­ting for a long time.

Oth­ers crack when they squat or go through the full arc of mo­tion even though they don’t ex­pe­ri­ence pain.

For some peo­ple pop­ping their fin­gers or crack­ing their knuck­les can be a habit of re­leas­ing stress or just some­thing that they do for the fun of it.

But have you ever won­dered why joints crack and pop pain­lessly?

Ac­cord­ing to Lati­cia Pien­aar, prin­ci­pal com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer at Tyger­berg Hospi­tal pop­ping joints can oc­cur spon­ta­neously when a joint is moved through its nor­mal range of move­ment, or it can be in­duced by pulling on a joint, usu­ally ha­bit­u­ally pulling on the fin­ger joints.

“When a joint is pulled, a neg­a­tive pres­sure oc­curs in the joint that will lead to the for­ma­tion of bub­bles that were nor­mally dis­solved in the nat­u­ral fluid of the joint.

“As the fluid moves to the big­ger joint space cre­ated by the pulling, the larger bub­bles tend to burst and cre­ate the crack­ing or a pop­ping sound.

“In larger joints such as the knee, these bub­bles may also form spon­ta­neously lead­ing to pain­less pop­ping when mov­ing the joint,” she said.

She said most peo­ple who ha­bit­u­ally cracked joints felt sub­jec­tive re­lief in the joint.

“This may be due to the fact that the joint space is tem­po­rar­ily big­ger with laxer lig­a­ments im­prov­ing the range of move­ment in the joint.”

This was how­ever, tem­po­rary, and would last about 15 min­utes at which time the joint space moved back to nor­mal, and the bub­bles were dis­solved again, hence it takes about 15 min­utes for a joint to crack again.

Ex­ces­sive pulling on a joint, be­yond the lim­i­ta­tions of the sup­port­ive lig­a­ments or ten­dons may also lead to lig­a­ment and ten­don in­jury.

“Com­mon ur­ban leg­end sug­gests that crack­ing may lead to os­teoarthri­tis, de­gen­er­a­tive arthri­tis of the joints.

“Although there are in­di­vid­ual re­ports of joint dam­age or in­jury, there is no con­vinc­ing sci­en­tific ev­i­dence to sup­port the devel­op­ment of arthri­tis due to crack­ing of joints.”

When asked if a crack­ing joint could in­di­cate a health is­sue, Pien­aar said should the spon­ta­neous crack­ing of joints be as­so­ci­ated with pain and dis­com­fort, it may in­di­cate un­der­ly­ing arthri­tis or a soft tis­sue struc­ture prob­lem, ten­dini­tis or lig­a­ment in­jury as the cause.

In this case, the sound is not due to the pop­ping of bub­bles in the fluid, but rather due to the move­ment of dam­aged car­ti­lage sur­faces.

ABC Health and Well-be­ing re­ported that noise plus pain is much more an in­di­ca­tion of a prob­lem need­ing med­i­cal in­put than a noisy joint with a pop here and there. But when in doubt about the risk, they sug­gest that you ask your doc­tor or phys­io­ther­a­pist to check it out so you can treat it.

A loud, low-pitched “clunks” can be a warn­ing sign of se­ri­ous joint prob­lems, es­pe­cially in chil­dren.

“There are some clunks that can be quite im­por­tant.”

Par­tially dis­lo­cated hips that are not di­ag­nosed for in­stance can wear car­ti­lage out at a very young age, caus­ing life-long dis­abil­ity.

For adults it’s dif­fer­ent, hear­ing just a bit of crack­ing is more likely to be just a bit of “get­ting old” .

Crack­ing in joints may in­di­cate a se­ri­ous prob­lem.

Bones can pop with no pain.

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