Why Do My Joints ‘Snap’, “Crackle’ and ‘Pop’

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It is something we all experience – knees and shoulders snapping and popping with movement. It is a phenomenon that has caused much curiosity amongst my patients, so hopefully today we can shed some light on why joints pop.

Firstly, it may be a good idea to put your mind at ease, most snapping and popping, despite how loud it can be, is very normal and does not pose any health risks. If the cracking is associated with pain or swelling then it might be a good idea to have it checked out.

As for the myth, does cracking your knuckles cause arthritis, please read my previous article here.

Below is a quick guide to help explain your noisy joint:

Soft Snapping Sound Usually occurs when performing exercises such as weight training. It can be due to a tight muscle rubbing over the bone. Try gently stretching the muscle before your exercise to help reduce the sound.
Noisy Shoulder The shoulder is the noisiest joint in the body as there are many moving parts as well as many muscles rubbing across bones.  
Knuckles Cracking The sound is caused by compressed nitrogen gas being released from the joint, similar to how a soda can pops when opened.
Chiropractic Adjustments Chiropractic adjustments can cause joint popping. The reason is when trying to restore motion to a fixed joint, there is a buildup of nitrogen gas. When we restore motion to the fixed joint the gas escapes causing a pop sound, similar to cracking knuckles.

 

This YouTube video by TED is a great illustration on why joints pop:

Is there anything you can do to help lessen the noise? The answer is yes and the solution is movement. Keeping active during the day allows the gasses built up in the joint to escape throughout the day, lessening the sounds overall. Your coworkers may thank you!

 

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