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Do Popping and Creaking Joints Indicate a Problem?

Posted by Doreen Dann, RN, BSN, MHA, December 23, 2020

It’s something that most of us face at some point and can even begin at a relatively early age. If you’re wondering why your joints are suddenly shouting in protest every time you move, here’s what you need to know about popping and creaking.

Noisy joints can be normal. Sometimes air or gas bubbles are released in the synovial fluid around joints when you move. This is often the case when you hear popping from your wrists, ankles, and knees. This happens even in very young people and is usually not a sign of an injury or disease.

Other times, you might hear a snapping noise from your ankle or hip joints. This sound is actually not coming from the joint itself, but from a tendon or muscle snapping against the bone. It happens when you stretch or stand up after resting in a seated position for a long time and might occur infrequently. “Snapping against the bone” sounds alarming, but it’s normal and nothing to worry about.

When noisy joints are a concern. On the other hand, grinding noises might indicate something more serious. As we get older, wear and tear on our joints results in the cartilage wearing down. With less cartilage to cushion the joints, bones rub together and produce a grinding sound.

Still, that might simply be a normal sign of aging. The real test is whether you experience pain, redness, stiffness, or swelling in the area of the complaining joint. Loss of mobility is another concern. These symptoms can signal the development of arthritis, of which there are many types.

If you do suspect arthritis is the culprit behind your noisy joints, discuss the issue with your doctor right away. Depending upon the type of arthritis, treatments can successfully slow the progression of the disease or help you manage the pain. Occasionally, surgical options such as knee replacement can help you regain mobility.

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