Worried about the noise that you hear each time you move your wrist, shoulder, neck, knee or any other joint in your body? There’s no need to panic — sometimes it’s nothing harmful, experts say. This is particularly true if the noise isn’t accompanied by any pain, or not a result of an injury or a medical condition.
However, there are instances in which the noise you are hearing could be an indicator of a much bigger joint-related issue, especially if it comes with other symptoms such as inflammation and pain. Continue reading to know more about noisy joints and the most likely causes of such.
Gas is Behind the Noise
The noise you hear when you move a joint is probably just the same as the noise you hear when you crack your knuckles. It’s something caused by gas, in particular nitrogen, according to medical professionals.
You see, right in between every joint is a sac that is filled with fluid, which serves to facilitate joint movement and to cushion impact. When a sudden change of position takes place in a joint, the fluid-filled sac situated in it gets stretched, causing a sudden change in the volume as well as pressure of the fluid within.
When that happens, some of the nitrogen gases present in the fluid inside the sac form bubbles. Unstable, these bubbles tend to pop — and that’s how the sound when you crack your knuckles is made!
Harmless, According to Studies
Although it may sound like it is harmful, the noise you hear due to the bursting of those nitrogen bubbles in the sacs in your joints is usually nothing serious.
If you are a chronic knuckle-cracker, rejoice! According to numerous studies, the habit is something that yields no danger to the joints after some time. In other words, scientists found no evidence that cracking the knuckles can damage the joints in the long run.
Cracking your knuckles is not the only way to have the same popping sounds produced. Sometimes the sudden movement of a joint is enough to replicate that characteristic popping noise.
Grinding is a Different Story
There are instances in which the noise coming from a joint is not due to the popping of nitrogen bubbles, but the actual grinding of the bones making up a joint themselves!
According to experts, such is referred to as “crepitus”. Unlike the harmless pops you hear when you crack your knuckles, crepitus is said to be an indicator of an underlying joint-related problem. For instance, encountering it each time you move a joint usually indicates inflamed or damaged cartilage in the joint involved.
Crepitus stems from the rubbing together of bones that make up a joint. Such can happen when the cartilage that shields the ends of the bones become damaged. Experts add that once you experience crepitus, it’s irreversible — you can expect further deterioration of the already-damaged cartilage!
A Tendon Also a Culprit
Aside from a damaged cartilage, it is also possible for crepitus to be related to a tendon, which is an inelastic but flexible cord that attaches your muscle to your bone.
Especially when engaged in repetitive movement, a tendon may become irritated and inflamed. When such happens, the affected tendon fails to move smoothly when moved, and this is what causes the noise. Medical professionals add that it is very much likely for you to encounter pain before the sound.
The use of painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications can help in reducing the inflammation, experts say. They add that instead of resting, it’s a much better idea to simply reduce one’s physical activities to promote tendon healing.
Provided that the noise you hear when you move a joint is not accompanied by pain or there is no visible inflammation in the area, there is no need to worry about it. But if it’s really bugging you, there is absolutely nothing wrong in letting your doctor check it for your peace of mind.