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Does your snap, crackle and pop sound more like creek, crack, pop?

Experience Life’s Kelle Walsh asks, “What is that sound coming from your joints, and should you be concerned?

“Do your knees creak when you stand up?  Do your shoulders creak during lateral raises?  Have you heard a pop deep inside your hip socket when you ease into a Warrior II yoga pose?”

Is cracking and popping of joints normal?

The Johns Hopkins Sports Medicine group says, “Cracking and popping of joints is usually normal and most of the time is nothing to be concerned about. The exact reason joints pop and snap is not totally understood.
One theory is that the ligaments (tethers that hold the bones together) make these noises as they get tight rapidly when the joint is moving. In some instances, popping may be due to a tendon snapping over or around the joint. Another theory is that nitrogen bubbles in the fluid inside the joint are rapidly brought into or out of solution when the joint is manipulated, such as cracking the knuckles in the hand. These noises with movement of a joint, particularly the knee, may sound like folding stiff paper, and are called ‘crepitus’.”

When should I worry about the cracking and popping of a joint?

“The only time to worry about cracking or popping of a joint is if there is pain when the joint pops,” according to the John Hopkins group. Swelling is not normal and should be evaluated if it accompanies the noises. If the joint gets locked or stuck when it pops or cracks then it may indicate a joint problem that should be evaluated. If you are losing motion of the joint, if it is swelling or if you are losing function of the joint, then you should seek medical treatment.”

Experience Life says, “Some experts even believe that when joints crack, the action stimulates the nervous system, leading to a relaxation response in the surrounding muscles.”

“When a cat arches its back, it’s actually stimulating the proprioceptors in its spine — that’s how it wakes up its body,” says American Chiropractic Association spokesperson Robert Hayden, DC, PhD.

“Similarly, it feels good when you move a joint and restore the flow of information from the joint to the part of the brain that coordinates it. Moderate joint cracking also helps to keep your joints from stiffening up — and that’s a good thing,” Hayden adds.

He says, “A rule of thumb when it comes to joints is that when motion is decreased, joints become less functional. But this doesn’t mean you should try to force a crack. Doing so repeatedly may cause long-term damage to your joint tissue and may risk destabilizing areas that support your body, such as the lower back. And in a delicate area like the neck, where there are arteries present, wrenching against the natural plane and range of motion could even lead to stroke.”

Hayden concludes, “It’s fine if your joints crack on their own, but it’s best to leave most  intentional cracking to a chiropractor or osteopath.”

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