Just about everyone knows the feeling you get after you “pop” a joint that just needed to pop. The relief of that strange, achy feeling in your knee or knuckle suddenly gone by a quick snap. It’s a neat and fun phenomenon without any real risk. No, if you pop your joints you’re not going to cause arthritis (just check this article on WebMD). Often times it helps you move better, feel better, or even stop hurting, even if it’s a temporary feeling.
Some people have a tendency to pop their joints regularly just to feel like they can function normally. Often times it’s popping the neck or back several times a day but it can be the case for any joint or joints. In these situations, the popping isn’t necessarily harmful, but that does suggest something is going on that could use more attention. Think about it this way: if you need to pop your neck ten times a day just to feel good about turning your head, doesn’t that indicate that there’s something off about your neck?
The point isn’t to create fear but to highlight some things that you could do to reduce the need to constantly pop your joints. For the majority of people, underlying weakness or abnormal muscle tone is the problem. Take the neck for example. There are a number of muscles around the cervical spine that help sustain your head’s position. As time goes on during the day, these muscles can run low on energy and become less supportive. This can make things like turning your head feel more stiff.
The most simple fix is to increase your muscle endurance. This can be accomplished by doing exercises for long duration holds or high repetitions. If we take the neck as an example, you can use cervical isometrics (pictured here) as a way to build up your neck endurance. Your goal for isometrics could be to hold light pressure for a few seconds at the start and work your way up to 30 seconds. For the back, you could try planks (pictured here) and reverse planks (pictured here) for the same duration. Doing these 1-2 times a day can make a big difference for those who constantly need to pop their backs.
This article mostly focuses on the back and neck because those tend to be the joints people pop the most. Another really common one is the knuckles, which can be helped in the same fashion. These concepts can easily apply the knee, elbow, shoulder… any joint. Just apply some light pressure to a wall, desk, etc. for a few seconds at a time and see if it helps!
Hot questions? Feel limited in what you’re able to do? The staff at Limitless Physical Therapy in Eugene, OR can show you how to discover your future without limits.
***The above information, including text, images, and all other materials, is provided for educational purposes only, and not as a replacement or supplement to professional medical advice. Please contact a certified healthcare professional or your primary physician for any personal concerns.