Do you ever stand too quickly and hear a pop from your kneecaps? Or how about when you stretch and your shoulders crack so loud, you’re worried your neighbors will hear? You’re not alone. In fact, most people experience it, and it becomes more common as you age. What really is that sound, though?
According to Arthritis Health, joint crepitus is a grinding, creaking or popping that occurs when you move a joint, and although specialists aren’t exactly sure of the underlying cause, there are a number of possible explanations. Read on for three major reasons why your joints may be cracking, and when the sound should be a cause for concern.
Reason one: nitrogen bubbles
When you “crack” your knuckles, that popping sound may be coming from the compression of nitrogen bubbles in the spaces of the joints. By cracking your knuckles, you’re essentially popping air bubbles. This kind of joint crepitus is very common and generally doesn’t cause pain.
Reason two: tendons or ligaments snapping
Another cause of joint crepitus is when tendons or ligaments snap over the bony structures in your joints; that stretching of the tissue is where the sound comes from. Although some people feel pain or discomfort with this kind of “cracking”, it should only cause worry if the pain becomes debilitating. In that case, the popping might indicate arthritis or another underlying medical condition.
Reason three: arthritis
If you have arthritis, the cartilage in your joints begins to degenerate. When this happens, your joint loses its protection against friction, causing your joints and bones to grind against one another. This often results in crepitus and can be, unfortunately, very painful. This kind of joint crepitus usually occurs in individuals with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis and is most commonly experienced in the knees. If you’re experiencing pain from arthritis, certain treatments are available to help you manage your symptoms. It’s recommended that you speak with your doctor to figure out your next steps.
Does popping your joints lead to arthritis?
Even though the snap, crackle and pop might sound disconcerting, there’s usually nothing to worry about. Most people’s joints pop, and as long as it’s not accompanied by pain, it shouldn’t warrant concern. However, if your crepitus becomes agonizing, and you notice any swelling around your joints, you may be exhibiting symptoms of arthritis. In that case, schedule a visit to your doctor or rheumatologist to get it checked.