Crackling/Noisy Joints

Ever wondered why your knee pops some sound when going upstairs or downstairs? This is a common sound for most people in their day to day lives. Knees, knuckles, ankles and even your lungs can make alarming crackles as you move through the day. This can be harmless when not caused by an injury, medical condition or disease. But there are times when the noise is signaling a bigger problem.

This is called crepitus. Crepitus is a crackling or popping sound that occurs as a result of tissues rubbing together abnormally. Sometimes the sound results from an abnormal interaction between air, fluid or bone. It comes from nitrogen bubbles in the synovial fluid that get trapped then released during a particular movement.

What Causes Crepitus?

  • Crepitus is caused by tissues rubbing together in an abnormal way. The most common cause of crepitus is rough cartilage and bone rubbing together in a joint. Tendons or ligaments snap over the joint’s bony structures. This snapping sometimes causes pain.
  • Another common cause of crepitus is when air gets inside soft tissues, which can cause a crackling or popping sound when pressed. Air bubbles pop inside the joint. This popping does not cause pain. The synovial fluid lubricates and protects the joints. Over time, gases can build up in these areas which are released when the joint is being used. Thus, the pops and cracks. A chiropractor can manually induce these pops. So, getting your back “cracked” is more like getting your joint fluid popped.
  • Arthritic joints either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis-This causes a joint’s articular cartilage to degenerate. While arthritis often leads to pain, not everyone with joint degeneration will experience it. When a joint’s cartilage degenerates, the joint is no longer adequately protected against friction and impacts. In addition, the loss of cartilage can alter the joint’s biomechanics and cause bones to grind against one another. These changes can result in crepitation.

Does Crepitus Need To Be Treated?

Crepitus is usually not a cause for concern. In fact, most people’s joints crack or pop occasionally. However that is considered normal. But if crepitus is regular and is accompanied by pain, swelling, or other concerning symptoms, it may be an indication of arthritis or another medical condition.

How To Silence Your Joints

  1. The way you treat Crepitus really depends on its underlying issue. In many cases, treating the inflammation can help tremendously. That may include physiotherapy, medicinal support or cold therapy.
  2. If you are experiencing noisy joints, please contact your healthcare provider for evaluation. It important to understand the root cause. So that normal noisiness can be distinguished from an acute or chronic condition which requires medical attention.
  3. One of the most effective forms of treatment involves strengthening the muscles that support the joint. This takes pressure off the joints.

References: Resources
Prepared by:
Danson King’ori
Physical Therapist
Chiropractic & Physiotherapy Health Centre

Crackling/Noisy Joints

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