Joint Pain Forum – News you can use!
Knuckle knowledge comes in handy
June 20, 2007
The knuckles get quite a workout, both in the literary and physical
sense. You knuckle down to perform a difficult task. If you're
intimidated, you could knuckle under. Dimwits may be referred to as
knuckle-walkers. Someone who takes umbrage at that description may
offer their tormentor a knuckle sandwich.
Medically speaking, the knuckles are the prominently angled
finger joints seen when the hand is closed in a fist. Because hands are
constantly moving, opening and clenching, people normally move their
knuckles countless times a day without even thinking about it.
Some people have the ability to crack their knuckles. They push or pull
on their knuckles to make a popping sound. This comes from the fluid
surrounding knuckles, called synovial fluid. Gases, mainly carbon
dioxide, are dissolved in this fluid.
When fingers are stretched to pop the knuckle, the bones pull
apart, the joint cavity is enlarged and the pressure inside decreases.
The decrease in pressure causes the dissolved gases to emerge as
bubbles, which cause the popping noise. (When the knuckles return to
their normal position, the increased pressure forces the bubbles back
into the fluid.)
The creation and absorption of gas in knuckle-cracking is
similar to that of "the bends," which deep-sea divers may be subjected
to if they rapidly resurface. While at great depths, inhaled gas is
dissolved into the blood. When the divers surface too rapidly, the gas
emerges all at once, causing great pain and possible death, as the
bubbles can block blood flow to the brain and other vital organs.
However, medical research says that
knuckle-cracking is not in itself dangerous. It's possible to injure
fingers by twisting them out of place, but that's generally associated
with continual knuckle-cracking. And not everyone can crack their
knuckles; it's possible that those who do so have unusual joints that
are more prone to injury in the first place. A study of
knuckle-cracking found no evidence that it leads to arthritis.
Knuckles can be damaged by "regular" arthritis, or
osteoarthritis, in which the cartilage that lubricates the joints wear
out. That results in bone grinding on bone, producing extreme pain.
Knuckles are also vulnerable to rheumatoid arthritis, a disease in
which the body's immune system attacks the joints.
In either case, those so afflicted think about their
knuckles often, because of the pain caused by moving their fingers.
Treatment can be strictly for pain relief, such as administering drugs
that reduce pain and inflammation. For rheumatoid arthritis, there are
drugs that suppress the misguided immune response, allowing the joints
to regain normal function.
In both kinds of arthritis, gentle, regular hand
exercises can ease the pain. The point of these exercises is to keep
hand muscles strong so they can grip properly. The Arthritis Foundation
describes these exercises on its Web site at:
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