I was told for years by my doctor that surgery on my elbow would not be worth the risk, and after consulting with Dr. Arora, I feel TOTALLY COMFORTABLE having it done in September.
Straight to the point: Knuckle cracking is probably not as bad as they say, and that’s the general consensus among researchers as of today.
Yes, other people might still cringe and yell, “Stop doing that!” But the habit is probably not as detrimental to your joints and fingers as others would have you think. The rumors of the dangers of knuckle cracking are greatly exaggerated.
The possibilities that cracking your knuckles leads to arthritis and that it causes your joints to swell are most likely false myths, but there may be some truth to them. More research is needed, but as far as researchers have found at the present time, cracking your knuckles doesn’t signal the end of the world.
What Happens When You Crack Your Knuckles
To start with, many people may wonder: “Well, why do our knuckles crack anyway? What makes us feel the need to pop the joints?”
Basically, when you pop your knuckles, you’re popping a gas bubble. It’s similar to the sound of popping a balloon or bubble wrap.
When you stretch your joints, you release gas, and that gas forms a bubble in the lubricating synovial fluid between your joints. That bubble can then pop and collapse, either on its own or when you pop your joint intentionally.
That’s why you typically can’t crack a knuckle more than once. It takes about 20 minutes for that gas to return and form a bubble. (Bet you didn’t know that little fact, huh? We virtually saw the light go off in your head just now.)
In addition to causing arthritis, another myth is that knuckle cracking makes your knuckles larger. You know the one: “Don’t crack your knuckles, or you’ll never be able to wear a ring!” That hasn’t been found to be true either.
The Other Kind of Popping
The sound you hear when you intentionally crack your knuckles due to that bubble of gas is different than the popping you occasionally hear when you stand up from a seated position or crouch down to pick something up off the ground.
That popping, typically in your knees, ankles, or hips, may be the sound of tendons sliding between muscle or over the bones. That kind of sound could be related to osteoarthritis, which occurs when the lubrication between your joints begins to wear away, but it may happen in perfectly healthy joints as well.
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Bottom line: Although constantly cracking and popping your knuckles can annoy those around you, doing so is not that bad, and it has not been proven to lead to arthritis or create huge knuckles.
In fact, a Nobel-prize winning researcher, Donald Unger, made himself the subject of a case study in this regard. He popped the knuckles on one hand for 60 years, but not the other. In the end, he didn’t have any more arthritis in one hand than the other.
If your joints ache when they pop or you are concerned about your condition, however, you may wish to make an appointment to see Dr. Arora in West Bloomfield, Macomb, Warren, or Howell for an examination.
As for why you’re constantly cracking your knuckles as a nervous habit, well that’s a different discussion for another day.
Between 3 percent and 6 percent of the adult population has carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), making it undoubtedly the most common nerve disorder today. How carpal tunnel syndrome is treated depends on a variety of factors, such as the intensity of the condition. Fortunately, treatment can be very effective in reducing the pain, numbness, and tingling associated with CTS.
CTS occurs when there is pressure or swelling in the carpal tunnel, which is a space in your wrist where nine tendons and the median nerve pass from the arm into the hand. The condition is usually associated with repetitive use of the wrists, such as regularly using a keyboard or hand tools, but research indicates that it is likely related to a genetic predisposition as well.
How Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is Treated
Methods of treating carpal tunnel syndrome or reducing its effects range from self-care to surgical procedures in more serious cases. Following are several common solutions.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, known as NSAIDs, may help relieve pain and reduce swelling. Brand names of such medications available over-the-counter or in prescription form include:
- Advil and Motrin (ibuprofen)
- Aleve (naproxen sodium)
- Mobic (meloxicam)
The use of anti-inflammatory medications to treat carpal tunnel syndrome may be especially ideal if the patient has arthritis symptoms as well.
Some doctors may prescribe a short course of oral steroids as well to reduce swelling. Such medications include prednisone or methylprednisone.
Discuss side effects of medication use with Dr. Arora or your primary care physician.
A more effective way to use steroids to treat carpal tunnel syndrome is to inject it into the carpal tunnel. Doing so may help decrease inflammation and swelling, thereby reducing pressure on the median nerve.
Protect Your Wrists
A key to reducing CTS pain is to keep your wrists relatively straight, which is somewhat possible during the day but not so much at night. For that reason, some doctors may prescribe wrist braces that you can wear while you sleep.
To prevent pain, you should also wear a brace if possible when participating in games and sports that strain your wrists, such as bowling.
If your job requires repetitive use of the wrists – such as in manufacturing, construction, or the auto repair fields – wear protective gear if possible to keep them stable.
Self-care is probably one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent flareups. Take an active role in your CTS treatment plan with the following measures whenever and wherever possible:
- Use ergonomically designed furniture and computer equipment.
- Use proper posture when typing.
- Sleep with your wrists straight, even if you’re not wearing a brace.
- Take frequent breaks at work or when participating in hobbies.
Gently stretch your arms, flex your wrists, and wiggle your fingers regularly to reduce tension and increase blood flow. Dr. Arora can provide you with more specific at-home exercise tips that may reduce CTS symptoms.
In cases where pain is not alleviated with the above treatments, surgeries can be helpful. The two most common surgeries for carpal tunnel syndrome are known as open carpal tunnel release and endoscopic carpal tunnel release, both of which can be handled on an outpatient basis.
- Open carpal tunnel release surgery: In very simple terms, the surgeon makes a 1-inch incision on the wrist and then divides the carpal ligament to enlarge the carpal tunnel.
- Endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery: This is an alternate option with a similar goal. The surgeon typically makes two half-inch incisions, one on the wrist and one on the palm. A camera attached to a narrow tube is inserted into one incision, and the camera guides the doctor as he uses instruments to cut the carpal ligament through the other incision.
- Laser carpal tunnel surgery: People often ask, but sorry to say, there is no such thing!
Get It Checked Out
How carpal tunnel syndrome is treated depends on the effectiveness of prior treatments, the extent of the condition, your ability to follow other remedies, and more. It’s also possible that your wrist pain is not CTS at all, but a different condition altogether.
The first step is to schedule an appointment to see Dr. Arora in West Bloomfield, Howell, Warren, or Macomb for an evaluation of your condition. If it is carpal tunnel syndrome, we will work with you to find a solution you’re comfortable with. Call us for more information.
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Dr. Aroras office from my first call to schedule my appointment was friendly. Walking in the first day, I felt like I was in a nice atmosphere. Dr. Arora was EXCELLENT in taking great care of my hand injury. He was gentle and very understanding to the concerns I had about my hand. His expertise was admirable and I would recommend anyone with an injury to their hand to his office to be under his care. Because of him, I have healed faster than expected and will make an 100% recovery! Thank you Dr.Jackie S.
I first thought I was going to have to have painful injections or surgery, but Dr. Arora suggested physical therapy may do the trick. I was doubtful, but I agreed to do it. Now, my pain is gone, and with the help of an ergonomic keyboard at work to keep my hands in the correct position, I am virtually pain free. The therapy strengthened my wrists and shoulders, and built more flexibility into my wrists.Jerry T.
My experience with this doctor was positive from the outset. Dr. Arora was kind and spent a great deal of time with me. Staff was friendly. The office was nice and bright.Ariel G.
Very friendly and helpful Great staff!!! Doctor Arora was very professional and did great work. I was very happy with everything!L B.