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Is it OK to crack my knuckles — or back or neck?

Doing so won’t cause arthritis, but it could lead to other problems

By Sally Wadyka Sep 30, 2013 11:13AM
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Some kinds of cracking, it seems, are safer than others. And on that spectrum, cracking your knuckles is probably the most innocuous, says Dr. Jeremy Fine, a board-certified internal medicine doctor with a concierge practice in Los Angeles. 

"It's not good for you, but doing it once in while isn’t such a bad thing," he says. Cracking your knuckles stretches the joint and stimulates nerve endings — which is why it can feel good to do it. The popping sound you hear isn't your joints rubbing together, though; it's air being released in the space between the joints. "There is no link between cracking your knuckles and arthritis in those joints," reassures Fine. "But continually messing with the joints and pulling on the tendons can lead to instability and a loss of strength over time."

Cracking your back or your neck is a dicier proposition. Both are best left to a professional (like a licensed, experienced chiropractor). If you crack your back and feel any pain, numbness or weakness, call your doctor right away. As for your neck, Fine says, "you have more to lose than to gain" by cracking it. "There are very rare cases of people who have strokes or tears in the arteries of the neck as a result of it being manipulated," he says. "Best to never do it."

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94Comments
Sep 30, 2013 2:03PM
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Lets keep things in perspective here.  A stroke is so rare after manipulation its hard to give an acurate number. “There are very rare cases of people who have strokes or tears in the arteries of the neck as a result of it being manipulated" "BEST NEVER DO IT"  It scares these ignorant practitioners so much that there is a simple answer to these kinds of pain complaints.   Im sure this "doctor" would have no problem telling someone to take Tylenol.  And these are the stats on acetaminophen.  Tylenol overdose sends as many as 78,000 Americans to the emergency room annually and results in 33,000 hospitalizations a year, federal data shows. Acetaminophen is also the nation’s leading cause of acute liver failure, according to data from an ongoing study funded by the National Institutes for Health.  So according to this I suggest "BEST NEVER DO IT" 
Sep 30, 2013 1:17PM
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Boy the pill pushers of this country think everything should come out of a bottle, because the government says so.
Sep 30, 2013 12:50PM
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That's it; she's on top from now on!
Sep 30, 2013 1:25PM
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I think it depends on what you do for a living and how you treat your body. I'm a lineman by trade and there as been a few times that I had to go to a "bone cracker" and get my back cracked to get relief from the pain that I was experiencing. I won't go just to go but in my case it sure was effective.
Sep 30, 2013 1:40PM
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I love it how an internal medicine guy is preaching on chiropractic treatments and their effectiveness.  That's like asking your hair stylist for an oil change.  This article is ridiculous!!!!!!!  An internal medicine provider is the worst person you could go to for musculoskeletal conditions; especially joint pain.  Remember its up to you, to decide what route you want your care and not to trust someone to do it for you.  If your neck hurts and you want surgery go to a surgeon.  If your neck hurts and you want to exercise go to a physical therapist. If your neck hurts and you want it popped then go to a chiro.  If your neck hurts and you want to take a pill then go to your primary care doctor.  All have been proven to be about the same effectiveness, but not when it comes to side effects. 
Sep 30, 2013 2:52PM
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Sep 30, 2013 2:20PM
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Medical Doctors will do nothing for skeleton pain like neck or back pain.  All they ever and can do is proscribe drugs, which is why so many patients are addicted to pain killers.

You need to go to a Licensed Chiropractor. 

Sep 30, 2013 1:25PM
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I go to the Chiro every 2 months or so.  My neck progressively stiffens up.  If I don't go is start getting severe headaches.   I suppose the argument can be made that I should have never started going but blame that on my High School Phys Ed teacher.  He had us doing exercises that threw my neck out of place.   It has never been the same since.  
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