Whether it’s your shoulder, knee, ankle or neck; we’ve all heard our joints make a crackle, pop, click or grind at some stage. Naturally, this can be concerning and a lot of us may assume that this means something is wrong . So, what does a noisy joint mean and when should we seek help for it?
Added noises coming from a joint during movement, are called “Crepitus”. Many believe that these noises are associated with: an unstable joint, bones grinding on each other, cartilage damage, arthritis and that it only get worse with age. However, these noises could be from a large number of causes, many of which are very normal, e.g. a tendon flicking on some bone. Now when we look at the research, it actually shows that “noisy joints” are NOT associated with the level of degeneration or even how much pain you have [2,3]. In fact, we now know that a large percentage of the population without pain or joint damage, have joint crepitus .
Many people can live their entire lives with noisy joints and never have an issue. So, when should we see a health professional for a noisy joint? We recommend seeking help when the joint crepitus is:
– Only coming after an acute injury e.g. an ankle sprain
– Often accompanied by a pain
– Impacting your daily activities
– The joint feels unstable
– Still bothering you and you’d like some peace of mind.
Otherwise, think of joint crepitus like your stomach grumbling – no one likes it, but its rarely something to be concerned about!
1. Robertson, C. J., Hurley, M., & Jones, F. (2017). People’s beliefs about the meaning of crepitus in patellofemoral pain and the impact of these beliefs on their behaviour: a qualitative study. Musculoskeletal Science and Practice, 28, 59-64.
2. de Oliveira Silva, D., Pazzinatto, M. F., Del Priore, L. B., Ferreira, A. S., Briani, R. V., Ferrari, D., … & de Azevedo, F. M. (2018). Knee crepitus is prevalent in women with patellofemoral pain, but is not related with function, physical activity and pain. Physical Therapy in Sport, 33, 7-11.
3. McCoy, G. F., McCrea, J. D., Beverland, D. E., Kernohan, W. G., & Mollan, R. A. (1987). Vibration arthrography as a diagnostic aid in diseases of the knee. A preliminary report. The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume, 69(2), 288-293.