Cracking your joints is a quick and easy way to provide momentary relief through the release of endorphins. It is generally safe and will not cause harm when done correctly or occasionally.
When you crack your joints, you are adjusting or aligning your skeleton, and most researchers believe that the popping sound is caused by bursting air bubbles. Despite manipulating your bones and surrounding ligaments, there is no evidence that supports cracking joints, especially the knuckles, causes arthritis.
However, cracking joints incorrectly too forcefully, or too frequently can result in injury or complications such as pinched nerves, hypermobility, or reduced grip strength.
An alternative to cracking your joints is gentle stretching that provides a similar satisfaction. Sometimes your joints may even pop during a good stretch.
Here are some exercises that loosen tight areas and ease discomfort:
1. Neck: Towel Stretch
- Drape a towel around the back of your neck.
- Grab the left end of the towel with your right hand, and the right end with your left hand.
- Pull your right hand with the towel up and across your neck while slowly turning your head with it.
- Pull until you feel resistance in your neck and then very gently pull just a little more.
- Release and repeat on the left side.
2. Wrists and Hands: Prayer Stretch
- Place your palms together in front of your face with your elbows touching each other.
- With your palms still together, slowly spread your elbows apart while lowering your hands toward your waistline and stop when you feel the stretch.
- Hold for at least 10 seconds, then repeat.
3. Back: Chair Twist
- While sitting in a chair, reach your right arm across your body to hold the left side of the chair.
- Lift and hook your left arm over the back of the chair.
- Slowly twist your upper body to the left, ensuring hips, legs, and feet are squared forward.
- Ease out of twist and repeat on the right side.
4. Back: Supine Shoulder Blade Stretch
- Lie on your back with your knees bent.
- Cross your arms over your chest and hold onto your shoulder blades, as if you are giving yourself a hug.
- Sit up slightly and then lie back down on the floor.
- Repeat two to three times.
5. Hips: Butterfly Stretch
- Sit up straight on a solid surface.
- Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together without worrying about how close or far they are from your body.
- Place your hands on your knees and gently push them down towards the floor.
6. Ankles: Alphabet Trace
- Sit in a chair with one foot raised off the floor.
- Trace the alphabet with your big toe, moving only your ankle as you do so.
- Repeat with the other foot so both ankles move in a variety of angles.
Do not force your body into any movement or position. If you experience pain, then apply less pressure or stop completely. You can also visit a chiropractor for proper, professional treatment. Cracking your joints is not inherently bad for your body, so long as you are doing it safely. Take a crack at these exercises and find out which ones work best for you.