Often times I have patients who will tell me they hear funny snapping, crackling and popping noises coming from their knees, hips, ankles, wrists during different motions and wonder if they’ve cracked or damaged the bone somehow. I assure them this is, generally, not the case and that those funny noises can be caused by a number of things that I’d like to share with you.
Why Your Bones Are Talking To You
Throughout the course of the day and whatever movements you make, you may occasionally hear a variety of different sounding noises from your joints. Most often these noises are nothing to be concerned about, especially if you are not experiencing pain at the time you hear the noise. There are a number of reasons that can explain cracking joints and noises – like these:
- Gases: Inside your joints there is a lubricant called synovial fluid. This fluid contains the gases oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. When a certain movement causes the joint capsule to stretch, it often makes a popping noise from these gases escaping. Almost always this is just a funny noise and does no harm to the joint.
- Tendons, joints, and ligaments movement: In their normal movements, tendons, joints, and ligaments sometimes get out of position and become slightly out of place. This can happen more often if these structures are weak from lack of exercise or over-exertion/wrong exercise. The “snapping” noise you may hear when this happens is the part righting itself to its normal position. Also, your ligaments and tendons tighten during movement of the joint, especially knees and ankles, which can cause a cracking sound. Take time to stretch every morning to improve this condition. Natural Health Suggestion: If you go to the gym and work out on weighted equipment, never do the seated leg raise where the padded bar is over your ankles and you have to raise the bar with your legs. This causes pressure on the knee joint and can stretch the tendons or ligaments so that normal movement can even cause them to slip out of place and/or damage to the joint.
- Arthritis/Worn Cartilage: In arthritis, worn cartilage can cause bone on bone friction which can sound like bubble wrap crackling. This noise can, however, be accompanied by pain as well. Natural Health Suggestion: Try taking some Omega 3 oils to help with the inflammation that is likely present within the joint as well as aid in lubrication. Soak in a warm bath with Epsom salts that contain magnesium to help relieve pain in the joint. Be sure you are getting enough calcium and Vitamin D3 in your diet to help build the bone up. If you are overweight, getting rid of extra pounds will take a lot of pressure off your joints and help with movement.
- Snapping Hip Syndrome: Also called “dancer’s hip”, this condition occurs most often in athletes or people who weight train from the tendon becoming overly thickened. The snapping occurs when the hip is extended or flexed and is accompanied by a popping noise and possibly pain or discomfort. Natural Health Suggestion: Usually resting the leg will help and staying off it for a while. Sometimes icing the area also helps. Since inflammation usually starts to occur from this recurrent friction, taking 2,000 mg of Omega 3 oils can help decrease it. Stretching the hip muscles, particularly the iliopsoas tendon or iliotibial band, with slow and deliberate stretching movements before activity will help it become more limber so that the structures are not so tight that they snap with stronger movements.
As I explain to my patients, all these creaking, snapping, popping, and crackling noises you hear when you stretch or exercise or even just simply move around are nothing to worry about. Most often they stem from not being as limber as you could be and your tendons and ligaments are in a somewhat tight position most the time. Be sure to stretch completely before any physical activity, or just simply stretch when you get up in the morning. Drink enough water and fluids throughout the day to help relieve inflammation. If, however, you experience pain every time you move a certain way and hear one of these noises, do contact your doctor to be sure that there isn’t something more serious going on with your joints/bones.
Stay well, Dr. Mark