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We have all experienced some snapping, popping or cracking of our joints. Whether we are squatting and feel a creak in our knees or pop when we turn our head or a snap when we turn our foot.  So the question is….IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG?  Often joint noises can be loud, unnerving and create some  concern, but for the most part if when you move and hear noises from your joints, this is a normal, common occurrence! While the sounds may be an annoyance, the likelihood is that everything is perfectly normal.  If these noises are coupled with PAIN and SWELLING, that may be an indication that something is wrong and that’s when you should set up an appointment and have us evaluate it.  We can summarize this into two phrases….. 1) If you have NO PAIN and NO SWELLING, and your joints pop/crack/snap this is a NORMAL and COMMON OCCURANCE 2) If you have PAIN and/or SWELLING, when your joints pop/crack/snap you may have an INJURY that needs to be evaluated and treated

Why do joints make noise?

As we get older (more seasoned) we may notice that our joints start to make more noise, there is a good reason for that.

As we age the joints may make more noise because the cartilage in our joints can wear away as part of the normal aging process (think gray hair in our joints)!  These surfaces will become less smooth and we may get more noises as we go through our range of motion.

Joint sounds may come and go, depending on how you move, sit, sleep etc..

The bottom line is that as we get older our joints will tend to make some noise, but it shouldn’t concern us unless it is painful or you notice any swelling.

What’s that sound?

There are a few reasons why your joints snap and crack. For example, if you’re at the gym doing repetitive exercises, such as lifting weights or pushups, you might notice a clicking or soft snapping sound each time you bend your elbow or knee. This sound could indicate that a muscle tightness and may be rubbing and causing friction over portions of the bone. The sound also could be coming from tendons sliding over parts of the bone. If this is occurring, try to find a stretch that may help loosen the muscle and the sound may disappear. One of the noisiest joints is the shoulder, because the shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body and the amount of moving parts plus tendons can be the cause of that shoulder noise.  Again, unless you have pain or swelling with the noise, we shouldn’t be concerned.

Knuckle noises & back noises

When you crack your knuckles or your neck “pops” the sound is coming from nitrogen gas that naturally occur in the spaces of the joints. The cracking is the sound of gas being released from the joint, an action called cavitation The sound is not a cause for concern. The cracking sound is also what we typically think of as the sound that occurs during manipulation/adjustments of joints. Despite the old wives’ tales…CRACKING YOUR JOINTS WILL NOT CAUSE ARTHRITIS, sorry mom it may be annoying but there is NO SCIENCE to back that up.

How do we avoid creaking, cracking, popping joints?

One of the best ways is to move often!  At our office we pride ourselves in patient-centered care where each patient is given a tool box of stretches, exercise and mobility techniques to help themselves first before having to rely on us.

We like to say “motion is lotion” the more you move the better your body is able to self-lubricate and help decrease the noises!

Our follow up to “motion is lotion” is always if you can move, lets help you move better and feel better.  Anytime pain limits movement either in quality or quantity you are in our “WHEELHOUSE” and those are the things that we have success with treating.

Again, don’t assume that something is wrong just because it makes a noise. If those noises are accompanied with pain and/or swelling, it may be an injury that needs evaluation and treatment.  Otherwise thing GRAY HAIR of our joints!

10 Join the Conversation

  1. Cherie Cordero says
    May 25, 2020 at 5:51 PM

    Awesome informatin thank you!

  2. JustKal says
    Jan 13, 2021 at 10:34 AM

    My shoulder pops a lot when i do pushups. After doing a set my shoulder would be hurting like a bruise, the popping is extremely loud as well. Normal?

    • says
      Jan 13, 2021 at 7:35 AM

      While the popping alone may not be indicative of a significant problem, because there is pain involved I would recommend having someone familiar with repetitive use, overuse and shoulder injuries evaluate your shoulder. While most of the time popping and cracking can be called "crepitus" during movement anytime there is pain associated it indicates an evaluation at the minimum. Thanks, Dr. Jack

  3. Gary says
    May 28, 2021 at 5:29 AM

    When I do push-ups my elbow makes a pop sound and it hurts to use my tricep but there is no swelling. What could this be?

    • says
      Jan 25, 2022 at 12:37 PM

      Hi Gary, This is likely due to the triceps tendon snapping over the bony portions of the elbow. Unless there is pain associated there is not likely anything to worry about.

  4. BW says
    Sep 28, 2021 at 11:01 PM

    I have cracking joints all around my body however only my knees hurt sometimes. I mostly notice them in my elbows. Should I be concerned about this?

    • says
      Jan 25, 2022 at 12:36 PM

      Hi BW, Anytime there is pain involved, it warrants an examination to determine the cause. Thanks,

  5. David says
    Dec 22, 2021 at 10:44 PM

    Is it normal for my elbow to make a cracking sound at every push up. It's been happening for about 2 years. I've stopped doing them to see if it would stop after a while but that didn't work.

    • says
      Jan 25, 2022 at 12:35 PM

      Hi David, The snapping is likely due to a tendon snapping around the bony areas of the elbow. We typically see this with the triceps tendon, usually while this is annoying occurrence, it shouldn't be detrimental unless there is pain associated with it.

  6. kent says
    Jan 21, 2022 at 10:40 PM

    Hi there. My joints, particularly my wrists and shoulders quietly crack and pop in the days after I have done weights. No pain just a cracking sound like you described above. It's frustrating. What could be the cause? The same as above with tight muscles?

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