Does Joint Popping Cause Arthritis?

Photo Credit:  Jojo PD-User 2009
Some people are in the habit of popping their knuckles and other joints. The joints make a “pop” sound when pulled or pressed due to a build up of tiny amounts of nitrogen gas in the fluid surrounding the joint. Pressing or pulling on the joint can force the gas out of the joint, which causes the joint to “pop.” You’ve probably heard that popping your knuckles or other joints can cause arthritis. There is no evidence to support a causal connection between joint popping and arthritis. Generally, cracking your knuckles and popping other joints is not harmful. The knees, elbows, ankles or back may “pop” during exercise. This is normal and not cause for alarm, unless the pop is followed by pain, swelling or discoloration. Seek medical attention if you experience pain following a joint pop. Pain may be an indication of an injury or joint condition, such as arthritis, and should be treated by a physician. Stretching exercises can help reduce joint popping during exercise. It is also important for those suffering from arthritis to remain active and continue to exercise to improve their range of motion and flexibility. 
Exercises that focus on stretching and balance include yoga, Pilates and tai chi. See your doctor before beginning an exercise program. A personal fitness trainer can help you design a program to keep your joints flexible and reduce the pain and swelling of arthritis. Strengthening the muscles can also help relieve joint pain and swelling due to arthritis. 
Isometric exercises increase the strength of the muscles without moving the joints. Isometric strength exercises include hand presses, wall presses, abdominal squeezes and muscles flexing. To do hand presses, place your palms together and press your hands together in a “prayer” position in the middle of your chest. Keep your elbows down and press your palms together. Hold the press for about 10 to 20 seconds and relax. Repeat this exercise 5 times and increase the number of repetitions as your arm strength increases. Wall presses are performed by standing about 1 foot from a wall and pressing your palms against the wall. Gently lean in toward the wall and support the weight of your body with your arms. Hold the position for 10 seconds and then relax. Repeat 5 times. Increase the number of repetitions as you become stronger. You can strengthen the leg muscles by standing on one leg for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other side. Increase the length of time you stand on one leg as you become stronger. 

For more information about joints and arthritis, see:

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