Do your joints sound like an advertisement for Rice Krispies cereal when you move? Grinding, creaking, grating, crunching, or popping sounds that occur when moving a joint is something known as crepitus. These noises may be faint or loud enough for people to hear. Many of the clients that come into the clinic have primary concerns related to joint crepitus before pain or functional difficulties; they usually say something along the lines of “do you hear that noise when I move my shoulder? That can’t be good… it’s very disconcerting!”
Clients’ beliefs concerning crepitus usually stems from the concept of ageing and their joints “wearing away”. Generally speaking, the thoughts associated with the origin of the noises made are negative. Not only are clients worried about the crepitus in their joints being dangerous or damaging, they can also become alarmed by the comments and expressions (e.g. wincing) made by friends or family. Many people experience crepitus, so if your joints crack, pop, or grind, you are not alone.
Most people who experience crepitus find it most affects their knees, but it can affect other joints as well, such as the hips, shoulders, and spine. Crepitus can occur at any age, but it does become more common as we get older. There are a few known common causes of crepitus, which include:
- Air bubbles popping or gases releasing within the joint. This is similar to the noise made when you crack your knuckles.
- Tendons or ligaments snapping over a bony structure.
- Arthritic changes in the joint (less cartilage overlying a bone can cause the bones to rub or grind together, which can cause a noise similar to a squeaky hinge).
Crepitus is not a cause for concern, especially if it is not associated with pain. But if crepitus is regular and is accompanied by pain, swelling, or other concerning symptoms such as catching or locking, it may be an indication of arthritis or another medical condition..
As regulated health professionals, physiotherapists are qualified and experienced at assessing joints of the human body, including joints that crack, creak, snap, or pop. Assessments would be especially beneficial for those experiencing joint crepitus that is associated with discomfort or pain, swelling, or heat. This can help to explain if the crepitus is something to worry about, where the pain is coming from (if any), and how to rule out/prevent any injury.
Treatment may not be necessary; as stated above, commonly people have crepitus without pain. If treatment is indicated, the options will depend on the cause of the crepitus and/or pain. If crepitus occurs with exercise, the person should modify the exercise—not stop it completely. A physiotherapist can provide the correct exercise modifications tailored to your unique anatomy and goals.
If your snap, crackle, or pop is preventing you from engaging in the physical activities you enjoy or slowing you down, consider having a physiotherapy assessment. We can get to the root of it and start working towards improvement!
Please note the aforementioned is meant for educational purposes only. The information provided should not replace those made by a regulated health professional.
For more information or to book an appointment call 705-380-3312 or visit the website. Surge Physiotherapy is located at 33 King William Street, Suite 204, in Huntsville. Office hours are flexible with evening appointments available (three times per week). Email: email@example.com.
Stephanie Bourbeau is a bilingual, Registered Physiotherapist with the College of Physiotherapist of Ontario and the Canadian Physiotherapy Association who is committed to providing a hands on, personalized approach to physiotherapy.
Stephanie, a native to the Huntsville community, developed a passion for health and wellness during her youth while competing in cross-country running, nordic skiing, and track and field. Stephanie has always had a strong caring nature and fell in love with the physiotherapy profession while volunteering at a physiotherapy clinic during high school and university.
Stephanie continued to build on her passion for health care by attending McGill University and completing her Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology. During her Masters in Health Science of Physiotherapy, completed at the University of Ottawa, she completed internships in orthopaedic clinics, hospitals, home care, and neurology centres.