Is the cracking of the knuckles bad for you?

Cracking joints: what's behind when bones crack

Cracking fingers and shoulders or crunching knees when climbing stairs - almost everyone has a crack in their joints. Often even the smallest movements are enough to cause the uncomfortable cracking of the joints. But even though there are so many affected, hardly anyone knows what really causes the crack. And the question of whether joint noises are harmless or dangerous also unsettles many. We investigated the phenomenon of cracking joints.

Gas bubbles are released from synovial fluid in the finger

Deliberately cracking fingers is just a habit - there is no physical reason for it. "A joint never pushes to be cracked," explained Matthias Schulz, head of hand surgery at Helios Klinikum Berlin. In principle, there is no tension in the fingers that has to be released by clicking. If someone still finds it relaxing, it is a purely mental matter. The most common cause of crackling in the fingers is the formation of blisters that detach from the synovial fluid.

This grease lies between two joints: it allows the two cartilage surfaces to glide smoothly on one another. In the event of a sudden and extreme movement, the joints are pulled apart - and with it the synovial fluid. In the process, gas particles (carbon dioxide) dissolve: it cracks. The carbon dioxide bubbles then dissolve again in the grease. Trying to prevent this phenomenon through stretching exercises, for example, does not work. "The cracking happens regardless of whether someone has flexible joints or not," says Schulz. But be careful: if you keep cracking your finger joints, you will harm them.

Cracking joints indicate cartilage wear and tear

Clicking noises can occur in all joints of the musculoskeletal system. Generally, they indicate damage to or wear and tear on the cartilage. Shoulders and crunches in the knees are particularly common. "Whether this is a serious illness depends on the cause of the cracking," says Doctor Markus Giesa, senior physician at the Orthopedic Clinic in Mainz. Even if in some patients it is not clear where the cracking of the joints is coming from, in most cases it is harmless. "The cracking noises are audible natural signs of wear and tear on cartilage and bones," the orthopedist knows.

Crunching knees from meniscus damage

The knee cracks particularly often because the joints are heavily stressed: They are constantly being stretched and bent. When running, they have to cushion their own weight and withstand bumps. If pain occurs when cracking, you should consult a doctor with your complaints. In this case, advanced signs of wear are responsible for the loud cracking and rubbing noises. "These can be problems with the mucous membranes and tendons, meniscus damage or the lack of synovial fluid in the knee capsule," explains Giesa.

Cracking joints are a problem for women

Unlike men, women with multiple joints can crack. "This is mostly due to the soft female connective tissue," says Giesa. This leads to excessive mobility (hypermobility) of the joints and ligaments in women. The resulting cracking in the joints does not necessarily have to indicate another disease. Nevertheless, the repeated cracking strains the joints unnecessarily.

In the worst case, osteoarthritis is behind it

If the cracking occurs suddenly, for example after a fall or heavy physical exertion, you should definitely be examined. An examination by a doctor is also recommended if the joint noises are associated with pain. Then there can be a serious illness behind the symptoms, such as cartilage wear or advanced osteoarthritis.

Strength training releases blockages in the muscles

If the joints crack, the muscles can also be responsible. With shortened muscles or muscle blocks, the affected joints are not properly supported.

Wall sitting as an exercise: With a simple training method, you can prevent the knees from cracking and strengthen your muscles. To do this, stand about one step with your back to the wall. The feet are hip-width apart. Then lean against the wall with your back straight and slide down until your legs are at a 90-degree angle. Then hold this position for at least 30 seconds. Repeat again after a break.

Sometimes the fasciae (muscle sheaths) are too dry, so that the muscle groups move poorly against each other. Then symptoms such as pain or cracking can appear. In this case, exercise and stretching are the right therapy. Because with certain exercises blockages can be released and the joint play improves. After an appropriate diagnosis by the doctor, targeted strength training can be started, for example, but physiotherapy can also help.

Important NOTE: The information is in no way a substitute for professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. The contents of t-online cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.