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Joint Cracking: Why Does It Happen?

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Joint cracking is a noise that most people feel uncomfortable about, but it is quite common. Find out more about joint cracking, why it happens and how, here.

Our joints crack, creak, and pop for many reasons. Most of the time, it is usually nothing to worry about. Usually, the noise indicates that you have tight muscles, which are rubbing and causing friction around the bones. Sometimes, it can be the sound of tendons rubbing over the bone. The noise is sometimes enough to make some people’s teeth curl, so, why do our joints crack? And what can we do about joint cracking? In this article we will uncover all things joint cracking.

woman cracking back

Where does the joint cracking noise come from?

When we experience cracking joints, it is because of our tendons, which are attached to the muscles, sliding over the joints. As they go through this movement they get pulled back into place, which causes them to snap as they come back into contact with the bone once again. Although the sound it creates feels like there is something wrong, it is usually nothing to worry about and is harmless.

Why do joints crack?

There are a few reasons why our joints crack. Joint cracking can have different causes, but it is common and is not an indication of poor bone health condition. A few natural causes of cracking are muscle activity, when the muscle is stretched and causes joint noises. Joint cracking can also be caused by cartilage loss, which occurs with aging, leaving the joint surfaces to roughen. Arthritis can also be a cause of joint cracking. This is when the cartilage degenerates and results in those cracking noises.

The mechanics behind joint cracking

There are 3 main causes for joint cracking. Most are nothing to be too concerned about, as it is just a natural occurrence in the body. Joint cracking can sometimes be painful, but the pain shouldn’t ever last longer than the time the joint takes to crack.

Movement of joints and tendons

Our joints move all the time, and when our joints move, the tendons that hold them together change position, meaning they move slightly out of place. When the tendon returns back to its usual place a snap or cracking like sound can be heard.

Ligaments

These are the fibrous tissue that connect bone jones together. If you have tight ligaments, these will pop if suddenly moved and you may feel some short-term pain in the area. In some cases, a tear of the ligament can also be the reason for joint cracking noises.

Escaping gas

The scientific name for joint cracking, which is due to build-up of gas bubbles, is tribonucleation. The synovial fluid is present in all joints and acts as a lubricant. This gas gets released quickly when a joint capsule is stretched which causes joint cracking noises.

Should I be concerned about joint cracking?

Generally speaking, joint cracking is not usually something to worry about. Even though it can be annoying, it is a normal occurrence. As long as the joint cracking isn’t following by joint pain or swelling, which is a sign of a deeper routed problem, then joint cracking is usually nothing to worry about.

However, if you purposely crack your joints, such as your knuckles or back, make sure to not crack the joint too hard, as you may end up pinching or straining muscles and nerves. 

How to stop joint cracking

There are a few things you can do to stop your joints from cracking. These things are purely small lifestyle changes, and will be easy to incorporate into your daily routines, as well as maintain a healthy diet and taking joint supplements.

Start moving more

Many of us, nowadays especially, tend to spend a lot of time sitting at a desk for a long period of time without thinking to move around and get the blood flowing through our bodies. Being stationary in one position, whether it is sitting or standing, can result in your joints becoming stiff. When you come to move, your joints will crack and pop as they loosen up.

Gentle stretching

Making sure to keep your joints and ligaments in healthy condition is a great step towards preventing joint cracking. A way to do this is to partake in gentle stretching, which helps to move the synovial fluid around the joints and lubricate them.

woman stretching

Exercise

Exercise is great for many things. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to go to the gym to prevent joint cracking. Simply choose a form of exercise that fits into your lifestyle, whether its going for a jog or a leisurely walk. As long as you aim for around 150 minutes of exercise a week, your joints will thank you for it!

Joint cracking is very common and is usually nothing to be too concerned about. However, if your joint cracking is excessive and is followed by any continuous pain, difficulty or loss of mobility, or swelling, then you should seek the attention of your doctor for their advice.

That is the end of our joint cracking guide. If you want to know more about the workings of our joints, then take a look at our article about ankle joint pain and its causes, next.

Sources:

http://www.rehaborthopedicmedicine.com/noisy-joints.php#:~:text=The%20synovial%20fluid%20lubricates%20and,can%20manually%20induce%20these%20pops.

https://acornhealth.org.uk/joint-popping-is-it-cracking-good-fun-or-does-it-sound-like-trouble/

http://www.avogel.co.uk/health/muscles-joints/joint-pain/snap-crackle-pop-what-you-need-to-know-about-joint-noises/

https://www.healthline.com/health/bone-health/why-do-my-bones-crack-so-much#seeking-care

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