cracking joints explained: is it bad for you?

Bone cracking sound and clicking joints are common when we ease our way into certain asanas

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“What is” Series video created by Brett Larkin for YOGI TIMES

Cracking joints: what is it and when does it happen?

Cracking joints, popping, clicking, noisy, snapping. Sounds familiar? For many of us, our joints make those sounds when we do specific asanas, or simply as we move about during the day. So it is a habitual thing we get used to at some point in our lives.

We all have experienced various degrees of stiffness in our joints at some point, resulting in shoulder clicking, crepitus of the knee or ankle cracking

. Unless you were a newborn baby, muscle and joint stiffness are an inevitable part of the aging process.

It is not uncommon for stiff joints to crack during morning yoga practice.

This is when the overnight buildup of interstitial fluids (fluids which accumulate between tissue spaces) and dormant muscular energy can still be felt.

Popping joints during Yoga

Elbows, knees, vertebrae, fingers, and toes are all subject to an unexpected “snap,” “pop,” or “crack,” unless, of course, we go into our asanas in a very gentle and purposeful way.

Even then, for some yogis, crouching down to a good sacrum-opening squat (like Malasana) almost always results in a sharp knee cracking sound.

However, some yogis may intentionally produce these mysterious noises.

For example, by standing in tadasana and placing both hands on your sacrum while taking a slight backbend, one can easily create a single crack or series of cracks all along the spine as you bend deeper.

This is likened to the spinal adjustment delivered by your chiropractic. For some, it brings a sense of relief and release.

Of course, this kind of adjustment is not recommended for everyone.

There some yoga classes created specifically for the health of your joints.

For instance this 15 minutes class with fun and pleasant rotational movements, great as a warm-up to any practice. In addition, this Gentle Joint Release class helps wake-up your body and joints with ease and comfort.

Why do joints crack?

What causes this grating noise in the knee or bones’ cracking sounds to emanate from our physical bodies?

Well, there has been some scientific debate about it.

But the newest and stronger theory is that tiny bubbles of gas can accumulate around a joint, and the formation of those bubbles is what causes joints to pop (rather than the bursting of the bubbles itself, as previously believed).

This real-time MRI of the joint cracking video shows the magic happening.

Left: hand in the resting phase before cracking.

Right: the same hand following cracking. Note the dark, interarticular void with the bubble creation.

Source: PubliMed

Whatever the real cause is, it seems that we are reminded of the divinity of our physical bodies.

Our human anatomy is fascinating, whenever these sounds arise from inside of us.

Is cracking bones bad for you?

In the end, is popping joints good or bad?

Since we don’t completely understand this phenomenon – at least in the sense of “Western medicine,” – does it mean we can go on cracking forever?

In other words, is cracking knuckles bad for you?

After all, some people will habitually do the old knuckle cracking, toe cracking, or whatever maneuver feels good to them.

Well, medical research has yet to discover the long-term adverse effects of bones popping.

The popular notion that clicking joints may lead to arthritis has proven to be not at all true.

The only time you should be worried is if you experience pain, swelling, or decreased function.

Also, pay attention if the joint gets stuck or locked when it pops or cracks.

These signs could mean that there is a more serious underlying issue that needs immediate medical attention.


Overall, there is not much to worry about. As common sense would dictate, you should seek medical attention if something does not feel right.

So go ahead fellow yogi, go deep with your Ustrasana or Malasana; and don’t be afraid to work your edge, even if it means you gotta pop it, crack it, click it or snap it. After all, you are not dislocating a joint or anything…?

*Note: When looking for joints supplement, look for natural options such as Source Naturals Hyaluronic Joint Complex