Clicking and cracking joints are very common for most people, and while some of us experience the odd crack every now and then, some people are serial artists in making several parts of their body crack.
Is a cracking joint always bad? Can cracking your joints cause arthritis? Here are the answers you need, but more importantly, how our physiotherapists can help.
Why do joints click and crack?
There are three main reasons why you may hear your joints clicking and cracking:
- Moving tendons – your bones are not always as smooth as they’re shown to be in pictures, as your tendons do their job and work to keep your muscles attached they may “trip” over a lump or bump on your bone. This causes the clicking sound, and whilst it can be quite unnerving, it is usually harmless.
- Escaping gas – this category is usually for the people who constantly crack their neck, knuckles and everything else in between. Sometimes “pressure” can build up inside a joint making it feel stiff. Although cracking the joint may provide some immediate relief, the sudden movement of the joint can actually cause some damage over time. Due to the sudden movement, ligaments may be stretched (causing the joint to become less stable) and in some cases the bones may hit each other causing cracks and other abrasions over time. Although not immediately harmful, there are far better techniques to relieving joint stiffness.
- Arthritis – technically speaking, there are many types of arthritis. However, the baseline of most types is that bones are rubbing together without any cushioning or protection to lubricate the track. This is extremely painful and degenerative. The clicking and cracking can be an indication that your bones are not travelling normally in their joint.
How can our physiotherapists can help?
- Working out why you are clicking and cracking – although there are many harmless reasons for clicking and cracking joints, there are enough very painful and degenerative reasons too. This means time is of the essence, and working out the cause essential.
- Improve joints and prevent future issues – if after your assessment the physiotherapist decides it may be of a more innocent nature, then they can move to creating a strength and conditioning program that helps to release stiff joints, improve flexibility and increase your joint health to minimise any unhelpful cracking. This also gives them the opportunity to show you how to prevent any long-term issues and notice warning signs early.
- Begin immediate treatment for serious issues – if your physiotherapist decides it could be causing damage or a sign of arthritis, they can begin creating a treatment program for you immediately and provide suggestions for pain management, increasing strength and even options for your diet to help support your joint health. They will work closely with your GP to create an exercise regime to prevent further damage and begin healing your joints. Obviously, time is your most important tool here, so seeking support as soon as you notice the cracking is the best thing to do.