What’s That Sound? SNAP, CRACKLE, POP

It’s a question most orthopedic surgeons get asked on a daily basis: “My joint pops…is that normal?” Like most things in life, if it’s not broke (or hurting), don’t fix it. An acute injury resulting in an audible “pop” is different from a situation such as a hip “popping” for years. Popping, cracking, or crunching of joints is quite common and often nothing to be too concerned with, especially if it is not causing discomfort or affecting one’s activities. Here are some need to know tidbits on joint popping and cracking.

What Causes This?

Should I Be Concerned?

In general, if the popping/cracking around a joint is not causing pain or swelling to occur or interfering with your function or activities, there shouldn’t be much concern. Studies have looked at whether or not cracking your knuckles would lead to arthritis, and to date, no such correlation has been shown. That said, it is generally recommended that one not perform such activities too frequently or on purpose as there have been reports of joints/knuckles becoming loose from habitual cracking. In addition, habitual knuckle crackers have been shown to develop hand swelling (not from arthritis) and decreased grip strength which can lead to decreased manual function. Nodules can also form from such activity, and this may cause cosmetic concerns for certain patients.

Common Areas to Experience It

Any joint can develop it, but perhaps the most common areas to experience it are in the hands, knees, spine, and shoulders.

Summary

Painless popping around joints is an issue that one should hardly ever get too concerned with. If popping occurred from an acute injury or there were other symptoms being experienced in addition to it, then a visit with your orthopedic surgeon would be recommended at that point. Otherwise, keep up what you are doing and don’t let some painless noise around a joint stress you out.

Trevor Born, MD is an orthopedic surgeon with a specialty in sports medicine. At Sarasota Orthopedic Associates our commitment is to get our patients back on their feet, back to work, back in the game, and back to life. We have four convenient locations and offer same day appointments when needed. Visit our website at www.SOA.md or call us at 941-951-2663 for an appointment. Appointments may also be made via our website.

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