We’ve all cracked our knuckles or heard a popping sound from come our knees or shoulders from time to time. What does that mean? Are we headed for a life of pain and disability?
Orthopedic medicine specialists—the doctors that deal with the musculoskeletal system—get this question a lot. The short answer is that popping sound is nothing to worry about. But if you have pain along with it, you should see a doctor.
The noise you’re hearing is sometimes called crepitus. It can have different causes:
- Compression of nitrogen bubbles in the spaces of the joints. This is what causes the noise when you crack your knuckles. If your mother told you popping your knuckles would cause them to become enlarged and arthritic, she was wrong. The activity may have annoyed your mom, but it’s harmless.
- Muscles or tendons sliding against bony joint structures. This is the soft clicking or popping sound you may hear as you lift weights or do pushups at the gym. It may be a sign of tight muscles. Gentle stretching can help reduce the clicks.
- Arthritis, which causes bones in our joints to rub against one another. You may hear creaking or clicking in your knees or other joints, and you may also have pain if arthritis is the cause.
While popping sounds can occur at any age (as any kid with knuckles can tell you), they become more frequent as we age. The cartilage that cushions our joints begins to wear down over time, so we’re more likely to hear popping, grinding, creaking, cracking, and crunching noises.
You don’t need to worry about these sounds unless you also have pain or swelling in the joints.If you are struggling with joint pain, gives us a call. The medical professionals at Arizona Bone and Joint Specialists can work with you to get back to enjoying the activities you love.
Arizona Bone and Joint Specialists is located in Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona, with convenient on-site services including physical therapy and imaging. For more information, make an appointment by calling the Scottsdale office at 602-493-9361 or the Phoenix office at 602-863-2040
The information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.