knuckles, joint popping, crack

Why do my joints creak, crack and pop?

Do you crack your knuckles? Do your knees make popping noises when you bend down into a deep squat? Do your back and neck pop or creak when you twist?

What’s causing the noise and is it good or bad for you?

The joint popping noise is known as cavitation in the medical world. The noise is thought to come from carbon dioxide being quickly released from the synovial(joint lubricating) fluid. Once the carbon dioxide is released, it is slowly reabsorbed into the synovial fluid. This is why when you pop your knuckles for instance, they don’t make the popping noise again for a few minutes.

Other types of creaking or popping noises can come from ligaments or tendons moving over bony protuberances. This happens with a ‘snapping hip‘ when the iliotibial band (IT band) rolls over the femur bone.

Creaking and cracking noises in the joints can also come from joint surfaces that aren’t perfectly smooth moving against each other. Arthritic joints can make this noise because the cartilage and joint surface have become more rough.

The good news is that all of these noises are normal! If the noise doesn’t occur with pain then there is nothing to worry about. If there is pain with the joint noise, then it can indicate possible joint or soft tissue irritation or injury. That’s a good time to seek guidance from a physical therapist to determine the underlying cause of the pain.

What about repeatedly popping your knuckles or neck or back?

The forced and repeated (multiple times a day) popping of joints is typically not ideal. When you pop your knuckles or joints in your spine you are increasing the range of motion of that joint. This can be good in the short term but can detrimental in the long term (if this is done many times a day for months or years) as the joint may become too mobile or loose which can lead to pain and discomfort down the road.

So, the noises coming from your joints are normal and not something to worry about unless you have pain. The repeated and forced popping of joints (like popping your knuckles or neck) is typically not ideal as the joint may become too mobile over time.

If you have pain associated with joint noises then come into Momentum Physical Therapy to get things checked out.

If you have questions feel free to email me at

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