Have you ever awakened in the morning, stood up, and noticed that your knees, shoulders or hands automatically crack or pop? You probably have. It’s a common occurrence, especially as we get older. But, is it something to worry about from a health perspective? Just what does it mean when you hear cracking and popping joints?
Cracking and Popping Joints: A Normal Thing
In most cases, cracking joints is completely normal and usually nothing to worry about. The popping sound you hear isn’t the result of bone rubbing on bone, as you might imagine but small pockets of air forming around the joint. This air is relieved when you first start moving in the morning. The clicking sound can also come from tendons and ligaments as they stretch and are put understand a sudden strain. Usually, clicking causes no pain, whatsoever, and is quickly resolved as the synovial fluid between the joints rearranges itself.
Cracking and Popping Joints: When Pain Is Present
Cracking joints might sound bad, but normally, there is no associated pain. If, however, there is a pain, it might be a sign that something is wrong. Pain can manifest in a variety of ways, including sharp pains when the joints crack, general dull pain, tingling, and numbness in the affected area.
If you do experience pain, there are are two main reasons why. The first is that the joint itself has either become inflamed or worn down. In the case of the former, the important thing to do is to avoid anything that could make the inflammation worse, such as eating inflammatory foods, smoking or excessive exercise.
Seeing A Doctor
In the case of the latter, more drastic action may be required. Often injuries to joints can result in pain that develops slowly over time, progressively getting worse as the joint continues to be used. In these situations, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor. He or she may even refer you to an orthopedic doctor or a specialist such as a hand surgeon. Often, surgeons are able to perform procedures on arthritic joints which significantly improve quality of life and allow patients to get back to normal living without pain.
It’s important not to confuse cracking joints with chronic conditions like arthritis. Cracking joints are usually perfectly healthy and benign, whereas arthritis is a sign of metabolic issues, disease, and stress.
If your cracking joints are not accompanied by pain, then you’re in the clear. However, if you have joints which hurt when cracked, or hurt in general anyway, then you may need medical help to resolve the problem.
Cracking and Popping Joints: A Constant Thing
The extent of clicking joints affects different people in different ways. Some people just have knuckles and knees that pop constantly. Some people even pop them purposefully and swear it feels wonderful! Either way, as discussed, this usually has nothing to do with any disease and more to do with one’s genetic propensity for pockets of air forming in the synovial fluid between bouts of activity. If you experience clicking all over your body, you may simply have larger cavities in the spaces between your joints that most people where these air pockets can develop.