Oh, Snap!

There can be many different times that our joints make noises. Our neck and back can crack when stretching in the morning, an ankle snaps as you go up the stairs, or your knee creaks when you first get up out of the chair. A variety of noises can come from our joints for a variety of reasons. Some studies have shown that more than 90% of our knees make some noise during the day! Sometimes noises can also have pain associated with it, but this is much less common than having noise with no pain.

If you do have pain or swelling associated with the noise, then it would be important to bring up with your Physical Therapist. In the end, noises are often present but infrequently harmful for us.

Here are some of the most common noises we hear in our joints and why they are happening.

Crack/Pop

This is what you hear with your Physical Therapist during manipulation/mobilization, can also occur randomly during movement.

This is actually called tribonucleation, (big word I know) but basically has to do with rapid separation/movement of the joint and air bubbles. Here is a study showing what is happening at the joint!

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4398549/

Creaking (crepitus)

This is the creaky door/rusty hinge type sound that we hear. Ex: knee creaks when standing up after sitting for a long time.

Joint needs movement, which is when you may hear us say “Motion is Lotion”!

Clicking/snapping

Is a singular noise during a joint movement. Ex: shoulder clicks at shoulder height as we lift our arms overhead every time.

This is most often from a tendon snapping/sliding over something.

Clunking/thunk

Also a single noise during a movement of the joint, may seem louder or bigger than the clicking/snapping. Ex: hip clunks when going into a deep squat

The joint and structures associated with that joint are competing for best position during the movement.

What do all of these noises have in common? They can all be normal and have no ill effects on us or our movement!

So be sure to get out there and get moving.

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