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Cracking Joints: What Does the Sound Mean

Cracking Joints: What Does the Sound Mean

Your joints may sometimes emit sounds like popping, cracking, snapping or clicking. In technical terms, these cracking sounds are called ‘crepitus’, which means to rattle.


According to Harvard Health Publishing, the sound of cracking joints is probably caused due to gas bubbles in your joints bursting. Some research suggests that it is caused due to popping bubbles in the synovial fluid - a fluid that keeps your joints lubricated.


So, what are the health implications of cracking joints? Is it because of an underlying medical condition? Let’s find out.


What Is Cracking Joints?



A recent 2015 study debates that cracking and popping joints is caused due to the creation of a small space between your bones. This was found using MRI technology and argues that the sound is not caused due to the release of an air bubble. Doctors have named this ‘tribonucleation

What Medical Conditions Can Lead To Cracking Joints?


  • Osteoarthritis


Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis and causes the cartilage in your joints to become thin and ragged. This thinning and wear and tear results in pain as joints rub against each other. Popping joints becomes more frequent as osteoarthritis progresses. Here are 8 tips to manage osteoarthritis pain.


Inflammatory arthritis like Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause popping joints. High-pitched popping sounds is usually a case of RA, whereas lower sounds could be due to any other condition.


  • Knuckle Cracking



Some studies suggest knuckle cracking may result in dislocation, which is known as knuckle pad. However, there is no concrete evidence that knuckle cracking can cause injury to joints.


  • Inflammation around tendons


Inflammation around tendons (fibres that connect your muscles to your bones) can also result in cracking or popping sounds. Conditions like tendonitis or tennis elbow can be accompanied by popping sounds.


Does Cracking Your Joints Cause Arthritis?

Usually, painless joint cracking or popping poses no concern or threat. It arises from muscles or tendons moving over each other, popping the nitrogen bubbles that are normally formed between the spaces in our joints.


Sometimes, the noise may also be associated with worn cartilage in the bones and joints rubbing against each other. If your cracking joints are causing pain, swelling, or difficulty moving, consult your doctor today.


Although cracking joints doesn’t cause any major medical condition, it is better to let go of the habit as it may lead to reduced grip.

Medanta Medical Team
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