Arthritis

Updated 31 January 2017

Do your joints snap, crackle and pop?

Joints often make interesting noises, and although this may be irritating, it's quite normal, orthopaedic doctors say.

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If you've ever heard a loud pop as you bent down to pick something up, you'll be relieved to know that it's normal for your joints to make popping and cracking noises.

Pockets of nitrogen gas

These sounds can be caused by a number of things, including when soft tissues – such as tendons and ligaments – rub or snap over other tissues and bones, explained Dr Aman Dhawan. He is an orthopaedic sports medicine specialist at Penn State Health's Milton Hershey Medical Centre.

Read: 5 exercises to strengthen your ankles

"Our joints are mobile, so there are a lot of things that slide over or run past each other. When they move, there is the potential for anatomy to intersect," he said in a Penn State news release.

The sounds can also be caused by pockets of nitrogen gas within the fluid that helps lubricate joints and provides nutrition to cartilage, Dhawan added.

According to Dr Robert Gallo, another orthopaedic sports medicine specialist at Hershey Medical Centre, the only time you need to be concerned about noisy joints is if you also have swelling or pain.

There's no link between joint sounds and arthritis, both doctors agreed. And cracking your joints does not make them swell up or become arthritic, they added.

Read: Keep moving to ease joint pain

"Joint sounds are not really an indicator of health or lack of health," Dhawan said. He pointed out that the cracking or popping sounds "may be irritating to the listener, but that's a separate issue. There is really no evidence that it causes any damage."

Excess weight

Some people believe chondroitin and glucosamine supplements or injections help lubricate joints. But there is little evidence to prove they are effective, Gallo said.

Your joints can benefit from stretching and strengthening exercises, low-impact workouts (such as swimming and bicycling), maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking, the doctors advised.

"There is good data to support getting rid of excess weight because it does improve pain in the joints of the lower extremities, as well as decreases your risk of getting arthritis or of having it progress," Dhawan said. "The joints carry the weight of our bodies, so the less stress you put on them, the longer they will stay healthy."

Read More:

Joint, tendon, and muscle pain

Alternative remedies for joint pain

Exercise and physical therapy improve arthritis symptoms

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Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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