Scientists Have Confirmed What Really Happens When You Crack Your Knuckles

“It is something like a firework explotion in the joint.”

Researchers have used ultrasounds machines in order to figure what how actually is going on when we crack our joints – which put an end to a debate that is a few decades old about where exactly that cracking sounds comes from.

In April 2015, scientists from the University of Alberta has published a paper that Is based on MRA imaging of finger joints being cracked. This research showed that the cracking sound is caused by the collapse of air bubbles that are forming in a fluid called synovial fluid – which surrounds our joints.

But today’s ultrasound machines are able to record what actually is going on inside our body about 100 times faster than the MRIs, and that’s why a new crew of scientists decided to search this claim in ordet to find some more answers.

Robert D. Boutin, who is a scientists from the University of California, has recruited 40 healthy participants of which 30 were regular everyday joint crackers and 10 who were not. Some of the older participants admitted that they are cracking their joints sometimes even 20 times a day, for the past 40 years.

Every participant was asked to crack the knuckle at the base of each finger that is commonly known as the MPJ – metacarpophalangeal joint, while they were being observed by the ultrasound machine. At the end, there were 400 MPJ cracks captured and recorded, which resulted with the knowledge of which ones exactly came with a ‘pop’.

The scientists expected to find out what exactly occurs within the joint, but what they actually find out appears to be much more unexpected and…explosive.

“What we saw was a bright flash on ultrasound, something like a firework that is exploding in the joint,” said Boutin. “This finding was really unexpected.”

The scientists are suspecting that the cracking and the visual flash that happened in those ultrasound images is somehow related to changes in pressure that may occur in the synovial fluid, as Buudin has explained:

“There have been many theories over the years and a fair amount of controversy about what’s really happening in the joint when it cracks. We’re quite confident that the cracking sound and bright flash on ultrasound are related to the dynamic changes in pressure that is associated with a gas bubble in the joint.”

This actually means that the huge mystery still remains.

There was a published paper back in 1047 on this topic that says how the popping sound occurred with a bubble that was first formed in the synovial fluid of the joint.

This hypothesis was proven wrong 30 years later when another crew of scientists said that it makes more sense that the sound actually came directly from the bubble bursting.

With the MRI recordings, the University of Alberta crew has actually backed up the bubble-collapsing, but unfortunately they haven’t really presented any conclusive proof. So, which is it? Does the sound comes as a result from a bubble popping in the joint or actually from a bubble that is being created in the joint?

“This question is surprisingly tough to answer,” said Boudin for The Washington Post.

“I can tell you that we consistently saw the bright ‘flash’ in the joint only after we heard the audible crack and it was never the other way around. Perhaps this supports the bubble formation theory, and not the bubble popping theory.”

What the scientists can say for sure is that actually there isn’t any immediate pain, swelling, or any kind of damage that is done to our joints when they are cracked.

This brings us back to the result of an experiment that was conducted by a medical doctor from California who spent whole 60 years cracking the knuckles only on one if his hands, which resulted in finding no difference between the two.

Even if Boudin said that there is still a lot of research that needs to be made in order to confirm that no long-term damage is being done, of course there is a small possibility that actually cracking our joints is maybe good for us.

“After a joint is being cracked, the range of motion for that joint increases significantly.”

We think this topic needs a relevant research as soon as possible. We simply have to know the truth!


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