Why Do My Joints Pop?


Why Do My Joints Pop?

Smiling pleased female worker seated at the writing table stretching her fingers during the coffee break

Pop. Crack. It happens to the best of us. We make a seemingly innocent move from the couch and hear a loud pop from the knee or hip that makes us wonder if that’s normal.

Joints are important parts of your body that support daily movement but can make various sounds and cause concern. While joint popping or cracking is a common occurrence that can be harmless, if you experience pain, swelling, or limited range of motion afterward, it could be a sign of a more serious issue that requires medical attention.

You may be wondering:

  • Is it bad to crack your knuckles?
  • When your shoulder or knee pops, should you worry?
  • Are the things people say about long-term problems actually true?
  • Why do my joints pop and crack all the time?

Let’s find out.

What Causes Joints to Make Noises?

There are different types of joint sounds: popping, cracking, creaking, snapping, and more. For the sake of this article, we’ll use these terms interchangeably.

To understand why joint pop, and what causes them to make other sounds, it’s important to understand what joints are and their function. Joints are the points of connection between bones that support movement of the body. They are made up of cartilage, synovial fluid, ligaments and tendons.

When we move, synovial fluid lubricates our joints, allowing smooth and easy motion. However, sometimes gas bubbles can form in the synovial fluid. When these gas bubbles burst, it causes a popping sound, such as when someone cracks their knuckles.

Common causes of joint popping include sudden movements, such as standing up or bending down, and repetitive movements, such as typing or playing an instrument. Popping, cracking or snapping sounds may alternately be caused by the movement of ligaments or tendons over a bone. These may be heard during repeated exercises, such as a gym workout. These sounds are usually harmless and in most cases, do not cause any pain or discomfort.

Is it Bad if My Joints Make Sounds?

When you hear your joints pop or crack you probably wonder if it’s bad for you. The answer is that it depends on the type of joint popping or cracking and how you feel afterward. Harmless popping and cracking does not cause any damage to the joint or surrounding tissues. Since you don’t feel worse after the crack or pop, this type of joint popping is usually not a concern.

However, joint popping and cracking that results in pain, discomfort, and inflammation may be harmful and cause damage to the joint and surrounding tissues. If you experience swelling, pain, stiffness, or restricted range of motion afterward, you should seek medical attention. It could be a sign of a more serious health issue that needs to be addressed.

Myths about Knuckle Cracking and Joint Popping

One of the most common myths is that cracking your knuckles can cause arthritis. However, scientific research has shown that there is no evidence to support this claim. Another myth is that joint popping can lead to decreased flexibility. However, studies have shown that joint popping does not have a negative impact on flexibility.

How to Prevent Joint Popping

While harmless joint popping is usually not a concern, there are ways to prevent it from occurring. Stretching and exercise can help to keep your joints flexible and prevent them from making popping or other concerning sounds.

Proper alignment is also important for preventing joint cracking. When your joints are well aligned, they are less likely to make popping sounds. You can achieve correct alignment through exercises and stretches that target specific muscles to support the joints.

When to Seek Care 

Next time you hear a pop or crack or other concerning sounds from your joints, pay attention to how you feel. While it is a common occurrence that can be harmless it can also be harmful depending on the situation. If you experience pain, swelling, or stiffness after hearing your joints pop, it may be a sign of a more serious issue and you should consult a medical professional for an assessment.

Additionally, if the popping or cracking sound is accompanied by other symptoms such as joint locking, loss of range of motion, or a popping sensation that is audible to others, it would be wise to seek care from your primary care provider. These symptoms may be signs of an underlying condition that requires treatment, such as a joint injury, arthritis, cartilage wear, or a ligament/ tendon tear.

It is always better to err on the side of caution and consult a health professional if you are concerned about any unusual joint sounds or symptoms. Request an appointment with a WWMG provider today.