Snap, Crackle and Pop – What is actually happening when your joints make these noises?
Why does my shoulder make this sound?
Why do my knees crack when I stand up?
Should I crack my neck and make it click?
Are these noises related to my problem and will they make it worse?
These are just a few of the questions we get asked in clinic on a regular basis regarding the noises our body makes.
99.9% of the time – noises that come from your body are nothing to worry about!
If it was something to worry about – it would be accompanied by a high level of pain and probably some dysfunction afterwards.
Your body is made up of so many different bones, muscles, connective tissues – they're bound to rub off each other and make noises from time to time.
Let’s take a look at some common topics related to body noises and see if we can answer your questions, concerns and also bust some myths!
Knuckle cracking – What is it and is it bad for you?
Growing up you may have heard that you shouldn’t crack your knuckles - the reason being that you would develop arthritis in these joints and that the cracking was bad for them.
This is simply untrue. There’s no science to back up the development of arthritis in the knuckles from cracking.
So what makes the noise when you crack your knuckles?
The cracking sound is simply gas being released from the joint – small nitrogen bubbles build up in the joint and when placed under pressure – the crack noise is them being released.
Don’t worry about arthritis developing in your fingers - if you want to crack them – crack on!
Neck cracking and crunching?
With noises in the neck there can be a few different reasons why we may hear noises or be able to develop a crunching when moving the neck and head.
Looking at the anatomy of the neck it is made up of several bones, discs and many ligaments and tendons which secure the structure – then muscle which overlays all this.
Bearing this in mind – there can be a combination of reasons why the neck cracks:
- See above – there can be a build-up of pressure within the synovial/facet joints of the neck. When they need to be released, neck movement can create cracking and popping sensations.
- Ligaments and tendons – because both of these tissues connect to the bones of the neck, it can cause grinding, snapping, clicking noises to be made on movement. This is particularly common in necks that are more tense than usual due to stress or ones that have suffered injury. This causes everything to be held tighter and the connective tissues to hold the joints of the neck more firmly.
- Bone on bone grinding – this one again is no surprise, there are lots of bones in the body, but if you are older this may be more pronounced due to reduced cartilage causing more frequent noises in the neck.
Noises in the knee can be made due to different reasons.
Again – gas in the large joint of the knee can make the knee produce noise, especially when sitting down and standing up to compress the joint.
Movement of the knee can make surfaces rub off each other producing noise, again this will typically be painless and nothing to worry about.
Older people may have degenerative cartilage which reduces the smooth surface in the knee, and this will typically present with a bit more of a crunchy knee.
The main culprit of noise in the knee can be the kneecap – this is because the patella sits in a small groove on the top of the thigh bone and is influenced by the muscle that sit around it.
If you have any imbalances or weakness of the muscle around the kneecap then this can cause the kneecap to move less efficiently and rub off different parts of the femur, causing noise. This can typically be rectified with the correct rehab and treatment.
Snapping / clicking hip
This condition is common in females more than males and can again be caused for different reasons.
Typically, imbalance of the hip causing it to be more dominant in certain areas than others and causes the ligaments and tendons to rub and snap over structures causing the noise. The femoral head can also move in the socket and rub harder than usual causing noise as well.
This is an issue which you should seek some assessment for and get treatment and rehab in order to improve it. Females seem to suffer from this condition more than males and generally it is seen in a younger population.
When should I be worried about noises?
Only if there is pain and swelling – and it’s that simple.
If a joint cracks and causes you severe pain and then a noticeable swelling – this is the only time you should be concerned.
What should I do about my body noises?
In conclusion – most of the time, noises are nothing to be concerned about.
If your clicking is accompanied by some dysfunction, consider getting an assessment and treatment to help rectify the problem.
Noises caused by movement can simply be a sign that your body isn’t moving as efficiently as possible.
Soft tissue therapy can help to alleviate tension and tightness in soft tissues and allow the body to move more freely – which can in turn reduce some of these noises you may be experiencing.
MSK Sports Injury Clinic in Newcastle can help to reduce soft tissue related pain, tightness and dysfunction which may lead to some of these noises your body makes.
If you have found this article helpful, please share it with someone who you think it can help, and if you need any treatment – please book online via our website.
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