Long intro…

  • Being an (almost) 40 year old man, I have been cracking my joints for nearly four decades now. (I cannot remember a time that I did not crack.) My parents were constantly trying to get me to stop, and somewhere in my teen years their attempts to get me to quit seemed to finally cease. (Except on those occasions that it was so loud or so many consecutive joints that it "grossed" them out.)

    Slightly embarrassing factoid: My knuckle cracking habit got so "odd" that at one point (around age 10) I thought it would be cool to keep a cassette recorder in my room and make a recording of my cracking knuckles so that I could play it back later (when my knuckles were in refraction and could not crack again). I would add on from each prior recording, making a recording that would last several minutes. I think I convinced myself that by doing this (very odd act) I was attempting to "try and quit" and that I could substitute listening to the recording for doing the real thing. I found this to be less than satisfying. It just lacked the "sensation" of the crack, and the audio quality was not that good.

    I have been a finger knuckle cracker forever. Primarily, I manipulate my finger joints by pulling them outward (away from the palm). I am also fond of (and frequently) push my fingers into my palm. I have never liked (and it is actually painful to me) to bend my fingers backward or to interlace my fingers and push them (palm outward) away from me.

    About the time I was in high school, I really started experimenting with cracking other joints. After finger joints, I started cracking my elbows and my back. To crack my elbows, I just "hyper extend" them by thrusting my wrist outward from a bent arm. I used to crack my back by sitting in a chair and twisting my torso (left and right) using my arms to help force my torso further than I could just turn it. My vertebrae would crack up my back in "rapid fire" succession. That felt good, but it also took so much force to do it that I started pulling muscles on my sides, so I gave up on that (and still to this day do not partake in the "backcrack"). Once I gave up on my back, I "moved up" and started in on my neck.

    My neck is one of the most satisfying cracks I do on a regular basis. It cracks so loud that co-workers at the next console over can hear it. Sometimes it cracks so loud and so strong I can feel it "resonate" in my feet. I have noticed a "looser" feeling in the joint after a crack. It feels to me as if someone had just lubricated the joint.

    In 2002 I suffered a herniated disk. It was the cervical disc between the C5 and C6 vertebrae. The disk was pinching into my spinal cord. It was a very "uncomfortable" feeling. It was not so much pain as just a nagging ever-present uncomfortable feeling. Then my left arm and hand had started to become numb. I met with a specialist who was recommending surgery. During my consultation I told the surgeon about my habitual neck cracking (my wife and parents were convinced that it was the cause) and I asked how much (if any) it had to do with the herniated disc. Much to my astonishment, he said it was doubtful it was the cause, and did not even seem concerned about my neck cracking habit.

    I underwent the surgery to repair the herniated disc. The surgeon removed the disk and put a carbon "fusion cage" in its place. (A small carbon box that separates the two vertebrae where the disc was removed). For nearly two years after the surgery I did not want to (and could not) crack my neck. I was fearful that I would damage my spinal cord, the carbon cage, or the new bone growth over the cage (supposedly bone grows over the cage and makes the two vertebrae fuse into one).

    After about a year of not cracking my neck (and it was driving me CRAZY not to) I "gave up" and started to try again. At first when I started manipulating my neck it was very painful and stiff. I could not get my neck to bend far enough to crack. It (my neck) wanted to crack so badly but try as I might, I just could not get it to go. Over the next year I got my neck to move more and more, eventually getting it far enough to crack again. That first crack was GREAT! I did not expect it to happen.

    I also crack my knees in two different ways. I can stand up, and rotate my body side to side (trying to keep my feet planted still) and the knees crack, and also kneeling. When I kneel, I can rock back and forth (ever so slightly) and find the "sweet spot" in the knee joint. Once I find the sweet spot in the knee, I lean over and put all my weight on that knee and – Crack! I have to be careful with this one because when I do this at church, everyone on the same kneeler can feel the crack. It is not such a big deal if it is only my family on the kneeler, but when a "non-family-member" is on the same kneeler, I can see a "confused" or even "concerned" look on their face when it happens.

    Another cracking endeavor is my hip (where the femur meets the pelvis (in that huge ball-joint)). WOW - now that is a crack! Talk about loud cracks, and one that can be felt from head to toe.... As I lay flat on my back in bed I bend my leg at the knee facing out (left for left leg, or right for right leg) flat on the bed making a "triangle". I then try and push the knee further back down into the bed. It is only about once a week I can get my hip to crack. I can feel this one building up - and it usually starts to nag me about two days before it cracks. When I first notice it I try to manipulate the joint as far as I can, but get nothing. The next night is usually worse, and it is "just on the brink" of cracking, but still will not crack. It is almost always on the third day of trying that it finally "gives in". When it finally happens - stand back - it's a doosey!

    Overall, my wife is pretty tolerant of this habit - with some exceptions. If I am cracking my fingers, she can put up with a few of them, but she just can’t last through all ten. It's all ten fingers and the ol’ hipcrack that she just can not seem to ignore. Once and a while a good solid neck crack will get to her too, but overall, I have to say she is pretty good about all the cracking I do.

    One thing I do regret with all this cracking... My kids (the ones that fall between ages 6-12) are now starting to show signs of becoming habitual knuckle crackers. I do everything I can to try and prevent it, but (from the perspective of a knuckle cracker) having had parents that tried to get me to stop, I know it's a useless endeavor. I will continue trying though... (And, for those of you wondering, No - I did not pick this up from my parents. Neither are knuckle crackers, nor is my sister... Just lucky ol' me)

  • WOW! I just read through that all - sounds like you have had the upds and downs and i have an uncomfortable feeling in my back which feels like it needs to be cracked but i never have.

    I reckon that your children seeing you and influences in life made your children crack so don't take all responsibility for it.


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