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Noisy Joints – Snaps, Cracks and Pops

Our noisy joints are one of the medical mysteries of the body, which most people experience during their lifetime. When a joint is “cracked” many people experience a feeling of release and a reduction in joint tension.

To understand the possible causes of joint sound, let’s first review the anatomy of a joint. A joint is comprised of many structures:

  • Bone

  • Ligaments – elastic bands of tissue which connect bones

  • Tendons – elastic bands of tissue which connect muscles to bones

  • Cartilage – a firm, yet flexible connective tissue which may deteriorate with age or injury

  • Meniscus – a curved type of cartilage found in some joints

  • Synovial membrane – encapsulates the joint

  • Synovial fluid – acts as a lubricant

  • Bursas – fluid-filled sacs which help cushion the joint

There are also several types of joints found in the body which allow for a different type of movement:

  • Ball and socket joints – rotation (ex: shoulder)

  • Hinge joints – bending and straightening (ex: fingers)

  • Pivot joints – limited rotation (ex: neck)

  • Ellipsoidal joints – a variety of movements and rotations (ex: wrist)

Knowing all the complicated structures to a joint as well as the types of joints, it’s no surprise that the shoulders are often the loudest. Grinding, clicking, popping, cracking sounds are quite common in the shoulders.

What causes the joints to make noise? There are a variety of possible reasons as well as theories as to why joints make sounds, including:

  • Compression of nitrogen bubbles within the synovial fluid of a joint.

  • Ligaments stretching and releasing

  • Tendons changing position

As we age, our joints tend to make more noise as the cartilage wears down and there is more friction and space to create sound. It was once thought that regular cracking or joints cause arthritis, but that’s no longer believed to be true. However, this study suggested a relationship between habitual finger joint cracking and decreased hand strength and joint swelling.

While popping and cracking is normal, it's important to visit a physician if you experience pain or swelling in a joint.

Joint health tips:

  • Stretch before physical activities

  • Practice good lifestyle and work ergonomics

  • Good posture

  • Try supplements such as mega-3 fatty acids, calcium and glucosamine (speak to your doctor first!)

  • Practice good bone health

We're here for you and all your joints! If we can answer questions or help you with healthy joints, please reach out to us: 519-258-8544


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