Does Joint Cracking Cause Arthritis
By Dr. Bruce Theall
February 08, 2016
Category: Arthritis
Tags: swelling   arthritis   achilles tendon  

Everyone has bad habits, whether it is eating snacks late at night, leaving the toilet seat up, or chewing food with your mouth open, these ‘habits’  we are told as children will one day develop into bad habits when we are adults.  A very common ‘habit’ that many people are guilty of is “knuckle cracking/joint cracking”.  Many of us do this on a daily basis in our hands and feet and are not sure of the repercussions it may have in the future.  Let’s discuss how this ‘bad habit’ may affect you. 

When you “crack your knuckles” or cause joint manipulation, you are actually doing more bursting of the joint than cracking.  When you crack your knuckles, it sounds like a “crack”, but nothing is cracking or breaking.  The popping noise you hear is caused by small air bubbles that are between the joints with synovial fluid, which is used to lubricate all joints in your body to decrease friction.  The joints in your hands and feet are common areas for “cracking”, specifically in the foot at the first metatarsalphalangeal joint (1st MPJ), “the big toe joint”, and if that sound that can be produced with voluntary control that may be a sign of arthritis at the joint.  The “cracking” sounds can also be produced in the back/neck vertebrae, hips, wrists, elbows, fingers, shoulders, other toes, ankles, knees, jaws, and around the Achilles tendon.  

If you believe the old wives tale of popping joints, especially the knuckles, leads to arthritis or other joint problems, then you will be sorely mistaken.  Current medical research thus far has been unable to link any correlation between knuckle/joint cracking to any long-term effects on the joints.  However, the cracking sound in the big toe joint in your foot could be a sign of arthritis.  The big toe joint is the site of a great deal of daily abuse from walking or running.   Every step you take, 65% of your body weight is transferred off of that toe with each step.  The first signs and symptoms of arthritis at the big toe can be pain/stiffness, and swelling accompanied by a ‘pop’ or ‘cracking’ sound.  A main cause of this is called hallux limitus, which is the limited motion of the joint.  If this is left untreated, it can develop into a much more painful degenerative joint condition, which is why it is very important for you to see your podiatrist for a full comprehensive foot evaluation for this and other conditions.

A podiatrist is the only person that is trained in a specialized field in medicine for anything concerning the lower extremity, foot and ankle, that is why it is vital for you to visit your podiatrist if there are any problems concerning your feet.  Dr. Theall’s office at Gentle Touch Foot Care is a unique experience because of his expertise in treating a wide variety of foot and ankle problems.  If there are any other questions feel free to contact the office at 973 673 – 3668 (FOOT) or go to our website for more information including our video library.  Remember to always support your feet and they will carry you everywhere!!!