Joints Go Snap, Crack, Pop, Click

No, you are not falling apart. If the popping, clicking, snapping, or cracking noises coming from your joints are not painful, then all is probably just fine. This is something I’m often asked about. Do not worry, the sounds coming from your joints are normal and common.

Most joints in the body are a place where the ends of two bones meet. The ends of the bones are usually covered in cartilage and a capsule containing lubricating synovial fluid surrounds it all. There are 3 reasons why joints typically make noise: gases escaping from the joint fluid, movements of tendons and ligaments over and around joints, and rough surfaces of the bones usually account for the sounds coming from our joints.


The noise that we hear when you crack your knuckles or making a chiropractic adjustment is the result of gas coming out of the synovial fluid. Oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide gases are present in the solution that bathes our joints. The cavitation or sound that we hear as a result of two joint surfaces being separated quickly occurs when bubbles are formed in the joint fluid. The formation of a cavity in the joint fluid was observed in a 2015 experiment using real-time MRI.


Clicking that you hear when lifting weights or other repetitive motions can occur when a tendon snaps back into place. This soft snapping sound is typical of a joint like the shoulder. Ligaments can crack when tightened across joints that stretch the connective tissue, like in the knee. When the sounds are a result of shortened, tight tendons or ligaments, often stretching to reduce the tension can reduce the noises that you hear.


When smooth articular cartilage is worn away by aging or removed quickly by injury, noise can be created when the rougher bony surfaces of a joint rub against each other. Osteoarthritis is the condition where joint cartilage is breaking down. The positioning of our of body while sitting and sleeping, as well as, how we use our body when we move also contributes to stress on the joints.

Joint Health

Moving the joints with aerobic exercise is the best way to keep the joints healthy. Movement of the joints circulates the slippery synovial fluid around the joint surfaces and helps bring nourishment to articular cartilage. Strengthening the muscles that move and surround the joints can help absorb some of the shock that normally is transferred to the joints. If you have arthritis you might want to avoid high-impact activities, like jumping and running. Chondroitin and Glucosamine Sulfate, as well as, undenatured type 2 collagen are supplements that can help to build and maintain joint cartilage. And as always, a great way to keep spinal joints moving is with regular chiropractic adjustments. Find my at Matthews Chiropractic Center if I can help you further.

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