You might want to call it having clicking, popping or cracking joints, and your doctor might say something like its nothing to worry about BUT…should you?
All of those terms refer to the same thing…. We all have experienced an occasional pop or crack sound when bending over, warming up our shoulder muscles, or performing our day-to-day activities. However, some patients come to the doctor pretty much alarmed after reading that people with arthritis get this popping sound as well.
Do you need to worry about it? Or is it maybe something as simple as a vitamin deficiency? In this article, you will find some insight information about joint crepitus, the clinical term for popping joints, and what is the most likely cause.
What’s this popping sound about?
Popping joints are a common complaint among a wide variety of people. Fitness enthusiasts may constantly have this complaint, even when performing exercises with a correct technique. Seniors often feel their knee articulation popping when bending over, but you don’t need to do exercises or become older to feel cracking and popping, and you don’t need to feel scared.
As long as you don’t have swelling, redness, and warmth in your articulation, that popping sound is not to be taken as a sign of arthritis. It might give you a temporary discomfort as the cracking happens, but no pain before and after completing the movement.
This popping sound is usually caused by gas bubbles forming within the articulation. These gas bubbles are released when you move the articulation, and sounds like a pop or crack. In other cases, it might be caused by other parts of the articulation, especially the tendons and ligaments attached to the bones involved in the joint. That sound might be caused by some sliding over and stretching of the structures in your joint, and it is probably nothing major to worry about.
As common as it might be, this popping sound is only okay as a temporary symptom. If you notice every time you move the joint it gives you this clicking sound and if you have swelling pain and other symptoms involved, you should ask your doctor to rule out other causes. One of the diagnoses we should think about even before arthritis comes to mind is nutritional problems, especially vitamin D deficiency.
There’s a strong association between vitamin deficiencies and plenty of joint problems. We all know calcium is an important part of your bones and joints, and you need extra sources of this mineral when you’re older, especially older women. However, one the best compliments to have with calcium is vitamin D, because it favors the absorption and the integration of calcium to the bone structure. One of many health problems associated with a deficiency of vitamin D in the body is called osteomalacia, and it would include joint tenderness, joint pain, and other symptoms.
If you’re experiencing this popping sound and sensation along with the actual joint pain, vitamin D is the first cause of concern before thinking about arthritis. Its true older patients are more likely to experience pain in the knee and hip articulation when they have low levels of vitamin D, and they are especially susceptible to this vitamin deficiency when they stay home for a long time and don’t get enough sunlight. That’s especially the case in temperate countries, and even more, severe in winter time.
Studies show that low vitamin levels are likely to cause pain in general, including joint pain, and when patients fix this deficiency with enough sunlight or vitamin D supplements, the pain symptoms tend to go away. So, be careful if you’re a postmenopausal woman living in temperate countries such as the UK and suddenly start experiencing bone and joint pain with a constant popping sound of the joints. While it is not encouraged to get a sunburn, a very light exposure to the sunlight and eating the right foods should be one of the steps to take if you’re trying to improve your symptoms.
Another vitamin deficiency usually associated with joint problems is vitamin B-12, which has an essential role in the formation of DNA. Finally, vitamin C helps your cartilage grow, and prevents several joint problems associated with tenderness and muscular weakness because it provides a cushion to the joint, preventing bony ends to meet and tear each other down.
Next, we will leave a quick table summary of the vitamins and minerals more commonly associated with joint health and the role each one of them has to strengthen your articulations:
|Nutrient||What it does||Deficiency consequences|
|Calcium||It is the key nutrient for the mineralization of bones||Osteoporosis and osteopenia (featuring bone and joint pain)|
|Vitamin D||Promotes the absorption and incorporation of calcium to the bone tissue||Osteomalacia, joint tenderness, muscle weakness|
|Vitamin B12||DNA formation||Joint stiffness and pain in patients with arthritis|
|Vitamin C||Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent. Collagen synthesis||Inflammation and increased wear and tear in patients with arthritis|
When should I start worrying about my popping joints?
We have just mentioned the most common causes of joint crepitus, but we are not saying by any means that you should neglect your condition and dismiss talking to your doctor. While the most common cause of popping joints is a structural sliding of ligaments or an air bubble-releasing situation, there are other causes to be considered, especially if you have recurrent symptoms and if they are associated with joint pain.
Other possible diagnoses your doctor might want to rule out are:
- Joint injuries: It is especially the case of knee joint clicking, and more common in athletes and people who overuse their articulations in contact sports.
- Osteoarthritis: It’s a structural problem in the articulation associated with progressive wear down of the articulation.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Especially when it is accompanied by pain and swelling in the articulations.
- Chondromalacia: A cartilage problem commonly known to affect the kneecap and causing a popping knee.
Jiang, C. C., Liu, Y. J., Yip, K. M., & Wu, E. (1993). Physiological patellofemoral crepitus in knee joint disorders. Bulletin (Hospital for Joint Diseases (New York, NY)), 53(4), 22-26.
Robertson, C. J. (2010). Joint crepitus—are we failing our patients?. Physiotherapy Research International, 15(4), 185-188.
Protopapas, M. G., & Cymet, T. C. (2002). Joint cracking and popping: understanding noises that accompany articular release. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 102(5), 283-287.