Do your joints snap, crackle, and pop when you move around? Are you one of those twisted knuckle crackers that can’t resist working your finger joints? If your joints make more noise than a bowl of Rice Bubbles, you might have wondered what’s going on. And if you should be worried about all those weird cracks and pops.
Why Do Joints Make Noise?
Most of the joints in your body that allow movement are synovial joints—ankles, knees, elbows, knuckles, etc. This is what a synovial joint looks like:
When there’s a change in pressure in synovial fluid caused by external force (e.g., cracking your knuckles), tiny bubbles form in the fluid and burst. This is known as cavitation and causes that clicking or popping sound you either love or hate. Here’s a quick video explanation:
The clicks and pops you hear when moving around are usually caused by cavitation. But there are also other possible causes.
The first idea is that cracking and popping noises are caused by your tendons shifting in and out of place or ligaments tightening as you move your joints. If there’s no pain and you’re not pushing a joint into weird contortionist angles, it’s not an issue.
It’s also possible that cracking and popping are caused when cartilage has been worn away and the bones are rubbing. This could be a sign of arthritis, especially if there’s pain.
Why Does It Feel Good to Pop Your Joints?
It feels good when we get a big stretch in the morning and hear a few cracks or pops coming from joints. Why is this?
To pop a joint you need to stretch a joint capsule. This feels good because it relaxes the muscles surrounding the joint. It’s especially satisfying if you’re stiff or sore after being strapped into a car for hours.
Are Noisy Joints a Concern?
It’s normal for joints to make noises. If there’s no pain, it’s nothing to worry about. On the flip side, if you have consistent pain or swelling, it’s time to see a doctor.
Although noisy joints are usually nothing to worry about, they might be a clue for some stiff areas that need mobilizing.
Motion Is Lotion—Move More
A lot of people work in office jobs and have little to no movement throughout the day. This causes pain, stiffness, and muscle imbalances. Moving more does wonders for your body. If you’re dealing with noisy joints and feel stiff and sore, try some of the below exercises to loosen things up.
If you’re missing mobility in the ankles or hips, you won’t be able to get into some of these positions. Just do your best and modify exercises as needed. But aim to get more range of motion over time.
Don’t just consume information. If you’ve read this far, I’m assuming you find this post useful. You’ve now got two choices: 1) close the screen and think ‘that’s nice’ and move on with your day. Or 2) give the joint mobility routine a go. Start out with a few exercises. And as Nike says, just do it! Decision creates action. Action creates results.
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You can also share some love by adding a comment below. Let me know which joints give you the most grief. Tight hips? Ankles?
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