Do your joints make noises?
How do you describe them? Clicks, grating, grinding, rubbing, crunching, creaking etc. Which of your joints make noises?
This is a very common phenomenon. My knees, for instance, have clicked for as long as I can remember. I have squatted down in front of many a client and heard then say, “Ooh! Was that your knees? Maybe you need physio!” Actually, no I don’t! Well, not for my knees anyway, but that’s another story….
What are the noises?
Sounds from our joints are perfectly normal. As Dallas says, it proves we are alive! The noise is actually called “crepitus”. Any sound that comes out of your joints does not mean damage or any structural issue; it does not prove the presence of, nor will result in, any “wear and tear”.
- One theory is that the noise is simply the sound of pressure change of natural joint fluid moving from one area of the joint to another.
- Another theory is that it is the release of nitrogen gas.
- It could also be the noise of fluid moving over the joint surfaces or soft tissues sliding over joints.
What we do know is that there is no evidence that there is any structural change in the joint when it occurs, even though it can sometimes feel great and relieves sensations of stiffness.
There have been a few studies looking at whether cracking your knuckles can lead to osteoarthritis. One that caught the attention of the media recently was that of Dr Unger who had deliberately cracked his knuckles every day on his left hand but didn’t on his right hand. After 50 years (yes! This was a long study!) x-rays showed no difference between the 2 hands in joint space or arthritic changes.
So when should we take more notice of a noise in our joints?
A noise associated with pain or instability such as giving way, is more indicative of a symptomatic osteoarthritic joint. A loss of joint space, as occurs in severe osteoarthritis, gives a much more grinding noise and is rarely a lone symptom.
Other noises can be sudden noises associated with a traumatic incident, such as a fall. This may indicate a severe injury such as a dislocation, ligament tear, muscle tear or a fracture.
Further symptoms such as pain, loss of range of movement and bruising will accompany this sort of incident and it would be a good idea to seek professional advice in this situation.
So in conclusion, simple every day painless clicks and cracks of joints are not something to worry about.
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If you would like to talk to any of us about your joint noises or anything else please contact us.