So one may ask, “What is the noise coming from my joints?” Joints in the body make a variety of noises: popping, grinding, cracking, and snapping. There are several causes for this. Inside a joint is fluid (synovial fluid), and when that joint is stressed quickly, the fluid forms bubbles, which are made up of carbon dioxide. The popping can be the bubbles forming and then popping. Snapping can be from structures outside a joint rubbing against the joint or other surfaces. This is common with muscles, tendons, and
ligaments. As you move, you may get some of these structures out of place. The snapping can be the tendons returning to their normal place or a tight muscle or tendon rolling over the top of another structure (bone, muscle, tendon, or a joint). Grinding can occur in a joint with a lot of arthritis. Over time, osteoarthritis causes a degradation of the joint and a buildup of extra bone in the joint, creating more surface area. This causes the joint to move a little different that it should, and as a result the extra bone will grind. One may ask, “When should a joint sound be cause for concern?” If pain is associated with these noises, then one should seek out a health care professional. Other concerns necessitating the need for medical attention would include a decrease in function following a pop, crack, or grinding or an increase in swelling.
Most people are familiar with chiropractors and some of what they do: manipulate joints. Many therapists are also trained in manipulations as a treatment technique. A manipulation is defined as a high velocity, low amplitude thrust to a joint. A manipulation will also create a joint sound, often in the form of a “pop”. In some instances, moving a joint quickly is the only way to reduce pain and restore function. The result of doing this elicits several pops from the area being manipulated. While this can be a scary experience initially because of the noise, the quick movement, and being in a dependent position, it can be very beneficial for your musculoskeletal system. How many times have you seen someone crack their knuckles or twist their neck and hear pops, followed by them saying “ah?” Following a manipulation, a person will often experience decreased muscle tension, increased range of motion, and improved ease of motion allowing improved and pain-free or less painful function.
At the Center for Physical Rehabilitation we offer complimentary consultations if you would like to discuss the concerns you have with a physical therapist. From there, an appropriate plan can be made. Consultation outcomes include recommendations for rest, assurance that current strength and mobility are normal, or if further physical therapy would be warranted. In this case, we would be happy to collaborate with your physician to obtain a referral for physical therapy and work with you to achieve you physical and wellness goals.