Joint pain and cracking is one of the most common complaints among people, especially those over 50. However, many times, the symptoms go away without treatment.
However, when joint pain persists, it is important to determine what’s caused it and whether there are underlying conditions that could lead to further complications.
A popping sound associated with joint cracking is usually harmless. However, it may indicate something else. Sometimes joints crack during exercise because of the impact forces applied to them.
This type of cracking is called “popping.” Popping is often accompanied by soreness and stiffness, which can increase with activity. Other causes include arthritis, gout, bursitis, osteoarthritis, bone fractures, tendon injuries, ligament tears, and muscle strains.
If you experience joint pain that lasts longer than three weeks, see a doctor. Your physician might recommend x-rays to rule out serious issues such as fracture or infection. He or she may also perform blood tests to check for inflammation.
Joint cracking is common among runners and cyclists. For these guys joint cracks are caused by repetitive stress injuries such as microtears in tendons and ligaments.
They occur because muscles, tendons, and ligaments become tight over time. When these tissues stretch beyond their normal range of motion, small tears form. Overuse of joints can lead to chronic inflammation and eventually arthritis.
As we’ve mentioned the good news is, usually joint cracking is usually not serious; however, if it increases significantly, or you have pain, then it is something to investigate. If you suspect you might have a problem, see your doctor.
Let’s look at some common causes of joint cracking.
Joint cracking is often an escape or release of air. You might think that it is just something that happens when you move your joints, but there are times when joint cracking occurs without movement. When this happens, it is important to know what causes the cracking sound.
Synovial fluid lubricates the joints, and this fluid contains oxygen, carbon dioxide, water, minerals, proteins, enzymes, lipids, and cells. In addition to being a lubricant, synovial fluid helps maintain the space around the joint, absorbs waste products, and protects against infection.
Oxygen enters the joint through the cartilage lining, and carbon dioxide leaves the joint through the cartilaginous surface. Because the joint is filled with synovial fluid, the small amount of air that escapes during breathing stays within the joint.
Sometimes some of the synovial fluid leaks out of the joint capsule. This could happen due to injury, arthritis, or simply old age. When this happens, the air inside the joint becomes trapped, and the pressure builds up. Eventually, the joint cracks open a little.
If you notice an increase in cracking sounds, it is helpful to look for things that might be causing the problem. Are you doing anything different lately that might cause joint cracking?
Have you had recent injuries? Has anyone been moving your joints too much? Is there any swelling or pain associated with your joints?
As we’ve seen joint cracking occurs when bones rub together (see also “What Vitamins Are Good For Bones And Joints?“) due to inflammation. This rubbing causes pain and often leads to damage to the cartilage covering the ends of the bones.
Joint cracking is often associated with osteoarthritis, a disease characterized by wear and tear of the cartilage and bone. In some cases, joint cracking can be the result of a more chronic type of arthritis.
Arthritis affects millions of people worldwide. If you experience frequent joint cracking, it is important to see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Athletes often hear joint cracking when participating in strenuous activities like running and plyometrics, which causes friction against bone surfaces. This sound is called crepitus.
While there are many reasons why one might experience crepitus, most commonly, it occurs when the muscles surrounding the joint become too tight.
When the muscle fibers contract, they pull on the ligaments attached to the bone, creating friction and resulting in the audible noise.
While stretching prior to exercise can help reduce the likelihood of developing soreness, it doesn’t necessarily prevent crepitus. However, stretching does allow the muscles to loosen up, thereby reducing the amount of friction occurring within the joint.
Additionally, the body naturally produces chemicals that lubricate the joints, making them less likely to produce crepitus.
Joint cracking is a common symptom among older adults. While it doesn’t always mean there are problems, it does indicate that something isn’t quite right. Joint cracking can be caused by wear and tear on the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones within the joint.
This type of damage usually occurs over many years and is commonly associated with aging. However, people with no history of arthritis still experience joint cracking due to normal wear and tear.
While joint cracking itself isn’t dangerous, it can cause pain and discomfort. If you’re experiencing joint cracking, talk to your doctor about what might be causing the problem.
Your doctor could recommend exercises to help strengthen your muscles and improve flexibility to reduce the likelihood of further issues.
If you find that you have a habit of cracking your joints deliberately you may need to add some calming practices into your life. Mindfulness is a great way of calming the body and relieving stress. There are tons of resources available to teach you how to do it.
Keep track of when and possibly what causes you to crack your joints. You might find that you tend to crack your joints when you are tired, frustrated, angry, anxious, or depressed.
When this happens, employ your new meditation routine and concentrate on your breathing.
Another way of addressing the issue of creaky joints is to move more, this keeps joints supple and strong and prevents them stiffening up. A simple solution may be to take more breaks throughout the day.
Try taking short walks during lunchtime and standing up frequently while working. Sitting a lot in one position all day long can also make you stiff, and your joints can become sore. Take frequent breaks to get up and stretch. This helps loosen your muscles and keeps you healthy.
Aim to get up at least once per hour if you spend most of your day sitting down.
Joint cracking usually is not harmful, but it can be annoying. It’s important to know how to treat it so that you don’t end up with an injury. By following these tips, you’ll be able to avoid any unnecessary injuries and keep your joints safe.