Are creaking, cracking and popping joints normal?
When confronting body aches and pains, observation and the quest for understanding can greatly serve us as we age. This is true especially for our joints. Oftentimes, people in our Yoga for 50+ classes ask, “What is the cracking, crunching sound I hear when I move a joint?”
The answer is crepitus! Crepitation describes any grinding, creaking, cracking, grating, crunching, or popping that occurs when moving a joint. We can experience crepitus at any age, but it becomes more common as we get older. For example, crepitus in the knees is very common, as is crepitus in the hips, shoulders, neck and spine. These are also the joints frequently affected by Osteoarthritis.
Crepitus itself usually is not a cause for concern. In fact, most people’s joints crack or pop occasionally, which is considered normal. However, if frequent crepitus is accompanied by pain, swelling, or other concerning symptoms, it may be an indication of arthritis or another medical condition. In that case, speak with your doctor to gain clarity about your particular joint condition.
Should I move a joint with Osteoarthritis?
Another common question we hear is, “If I have Osteoarthritis and it hurts to move a joint, should I keep moving it or keep it still?”
Generally speaking, exercise and movement are important for treating Osteoarthritis. They boost circulation around the joint and strengthen its surrounding musculature. That being said, certain activities, such as weight-bearing and vigorous movement, can further aggravate the joint.
Determining which movements are right for you comes down to how you feel during and after. If you notice sharp pains while doing certain movements, take those as signs to explore a gentler approach. Similarly, if your discomfort increases after exercising, look for modifications to your routine.