BY DANIEL EL-BOGDADI, MD, FACR
Snap, crackle, pop…“Doctor, why do my joints make these noises?!?”
Snap, crackle, pop… “Doctor, why do my joints make these noises?!?”
Crackling, snapping, popping. These are common sounds that a joint may make. There are several reasons for why a joint may make these sounds. It may be due to wearing of the cartilage. It could be caused by ligaments stretching and releasing or by compression of nitrogen bubbles in the spaces of the joints. It may happen if there are a lot of moving structures in a joint. Such is the case with shoulders or knees, which are the “noisiest” joints.
Joint crackling and popping on their own do not require treatment. They are normal (most of the time).
Many also worry that popping their knuckles will cause them to have arthritis. Despite this common belief, you will not make your knuckles big or develop arthritis in them by cracking them.
However, if swelling or pain or laxity of the joint accompanies the joint sounds, then it is time to visit your doctor as these symptoms could be pointed to serious joint issues.
Also, if you have a previous injury to the joint and it healed improperly, the joint may pop when you move it.
Is there anything you can do to prevent the noises? Yes, actually, the more you move the more your body lubricates itself. Some gentle stretching that involves the joint and the surrounding muscles may help as well. A good physical therapy program often is helpful in guiding an individual to properly engage in some difficult stretches.
Sometimes, though, no matter what you do, some noises will persist.