Arthritis is a common condition affecting around 10 million people in the UK.
It causes pain and inflammation in a joint – most commonly joints in the hands, spine, knees and hips.
Symptoms include joint pain, tenderness and stiffness, inflammation in and around the joints and restricted movement of the joints, says the NHS.
Warm, red skin over the affected joint, and weakness and muscle wasting can also be indicators of the condition.
Cracking your knuckles has been linked to developing arthritis in later life, but according to scientists, this is not true.
Research has suggested cracking your knuckles and joints does not cause arthritis.
“There is no evidence that cracking knuckles causes any damage, such as arthritis, in the joints,” said Dr Dimitrios Pappas from Johns Hopkins University.
“However, a couple of reports in the medical literature are available associating knuckle cracking with injury of the ligaments surrounding the joint or dislocation of the tendons, which improved with conservative treatment.
“A study found that after many years of cracking habitual knuckle crackers may have reduced grip strength compared with people not cracking their knuckles.”
Knuckles are covered by capsules, which contain synovial fluid. This fluid acts as a lubricant, and also provides bones with nutrients.
A number of gases are continuously dissolved in the synovial fluid, said Pappas.
When someone cracks their knuckles, the pressure inside the joint is lowered as the capsule is stretched.
All of the gas then rushes to fill the empty space, creating a ‘bubble’, which bursts and makes a popping sound.
So what is arthritis and what is the best way to ease pain?
The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is caused by mechanical wear and tear on joints, whereas rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the body’s joints.
Health experts recommend that mild symptoms of the condition can be managed with simple measures such as regular exercise, losing weight you are overweight, wearing suitable footwear, and using special deices to reduce the strain on your joints during your everyday activities.
Practicing yoga regularly can reduce the pain associated with arthritis, as well as improve flexibility and muscle strength.
Other benefits for arthritis sufferers include better balance, improved pain management and increased overall fitness, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
“Yoga is definitely one option for people with arthritis. Not only for the exercise benefits, but it’s also beneficial in the mind/body area, promoting relaxation and stress reduction,” noted Dr Kolasinski, professor of clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Studies have shown that regular yoga workouts can have an almost immediate positive impact on people with arthritis. “I was surprised by how strong those results were,” the doctor said.
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