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Why do my joints sound like Rice Krispies?

Do your joints sound like Rice Krispies? You know… snap, crackle pop…

One of the most common questions we get at Movement Driven is: “My (insert joint here) is always making a clicking noise. Is that bad?”

We respond with three questions:

“Is the ‘click’ or ‘pop’ painful?”

“Does it happen every time you move that joint?”

“Is it limiting your mobility of that joint?”

If your answer to all three questions is “No” then there really is no reason to worry.

What are the noises exactly?

The medical term for the popping, clicking, or cracking noises that joints make is crepitus.

Crepitus is often common upon waking up in the morning. It almost sounds as if your joints are settling into place as you walk from your bed to the bathroom.

It’s the same sound you hear when you crack your knuckles…

For years growing up I heard “Cracking your knuckles is bad for you… It will cause arthritis!”

No. It won’t. That’s nonsense!

Why do my knees/ankles/hips/shoulders pop?

There are two main causes for non-painful joint noises, or crepitus.

1. The first cause could be due to air bubbles forming in the joint spaces, particularly in areas where there is fluid separating bones- like the knee, ankle, shoulder, hip, and elbow.

2. The second cause for non-painful joint noises could be from tendons, ligaments, and/or bones rubbing together, stretching, or releasing as you move. NO this is not a sign of “wear and tear” or an indication that you should stop moving in whatever way caused the noise. Again, if occurring without pain, noisy joints are totally normal and not a reason for alarm.

Is there a way to stop my joints from popping?

Even though non-painful popping or clicking is harmless, many people find the noises to be irritating… like nails on a chalk board.

The main way to minimize the snaps, crackles, and pops… MOVE!

The phrase “motion is lotion” holds true here, as movement helps to lubricate the joints by increasing a synovial fluid which literally acts as a lubricant for the joint surfaces

As we mentioned earlier, many people experience noisier joints in the morning time. This has a lot to do with less movement, less lubrication, less air bubbles being released with steady continuous movement during the night.

Besides general movement, some other ways to minimize the noises would be:

· Dynamic warmups

· Working through full ranges of motion

· Resistance training

· Mobility work

When should I be concerned about my noisy joints?

There are a few instances where noisy joints may be a cause for concern. If the clicking or popping is causing pain, happens with every single rep, or is minimizing mobility then it may be wise to see a physical therapist at Movement Driven Performance Physiotherapy.

Here at Movement Driven, we perform thorough evaluations to assess what the cause for concern may be. Whether it is a simultaneous pinch and pop in your shoulder or a limited range of motion through your squat coupled with a painful pop in the knee, our therapists are dedicated to getting to the root of your injury and resolving it. If you are experiencing pain accompanied with joint noises, an initial assessment by one of our PTs at Movement Driven could be beneficial. Reach out to or click the link below to set up a Discovery phone call today!

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