To crack or not to crack
Has there been a time where you twisted your back or your neck because it feels sore or stiff? Do you ever hear a popping or clicking sound? Sometimes you feel better but should you feel worried?
There a technical term for these sounds, called “crepitus” and there are currently 3 ideas of thought around why the joints crack, pop or click:
1: Ligament/Tendon snapping – whenever a tight ligament is pulled across the surface of either bone, cartilage or another tendon/ligament, a snapping noise can be heard.
2. Bone grinding – cartilage that has deteriorated over time that lines the joint, causing the bones to rub together making a cracking or grinding sound. This is often due to overuse, and even old age.
3. Cavitation – our joints are surrounded by a capsule of liquid called “synovial fluid” which acts as a lubricant for our joints for smooth, comfortable movements. It is said that the trapped air pressure within the joint escapes, thus creating the cracking sound.
Can I keep cracking my joints?
Often when the joint has been cracked, it can take around 20 minutes before it can be cracked again. This is thought to be the refractory period – the joint needs to be able to reset in this time.
Forced attempts to crack again is not advised and can actually cause more harm than good such as further strain to ligaments or wear and tear of the joints.
When to seek medical attention:
Whenever cracking is paired with troubling pain, discomfort and other painful symptoms, this often indicates a structural and degenerative issue with the joint.
Here are some examples of when you should seek medical attention:
1: Consistent cracking – a joint that always cracks, pops or grinds upon the same movement may indicate joint dysfunction. This may be due to damaged ligaments/cartilage, deteriorated synovial capsule, bone grinding or muscle imbalance.
2. Locked joint – if the joint feels locked in place with specific movement, this may indicate deterioration or muscular spasms to be the cause
3. Throbbing and stinging pain – any pain that feels like stabbing, sharp, hot or throbbing can occur if the joint is cracked. The affected joint may be pinching or irritating another structure such as a tendon/muscle or nerve.
4. Recent injury – possibility of structural changes to joints such as the spine
If you are unsure of your cracking or popping joints or know anyone that has been affected this way, contact our team on (07) 32738887 for further advice on your case.
BY: Alice Chiang
6. Clinic Announcement