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Why do my joints click?

There are several causes for noisy joints, but you will be pleased to hear they are mostly harmless.

  • The tendon is snapping over a bony prominence – this is normally harmless and isn’t usually an issue but could be as a result of poor joint positioning which can look to be resolved with physiotherapy treatment
  • Arthritis – with degeneration of the cartilage you can get two joint surfaces rubbing together. Again, physiotherapy treatment to help work on joint alignment and muscle strengthening to offload the joint can help to prevent further wear and tear
  • Air bubbles – When the joint is forcibly stretched or compressed then the air is pushed out of the joint quickly which causes a noise.

Crepitus (often described as grinding, creaking, cluncking) is something that a lot of our patients experience and worry about however they will be pleased to know that no research has demonstrated a clear link between noise and pathology and lots of people experience crepitus who have no pain or injury. It is thought to happen when air gets into the soft tissues around a joint such as the kneecap and then when you bend the joint those air bubbles burst which then results in a cracking sound. Understandably though it’s hard to appreciate that it is a normal phenomena and research has shown that it creates negative emotions, inaccurate beliefs and ultimately leads to altered behaviour in people.

In summary, try not to worry too much about your noisy joints but seek physiotherapy treatment if you are getting any pain.

References:

People's beliefs about the meaning of crepitus in patellofemoral pain and the impact of these beliefs on their behaviour: A qualitative study Claire J. Robertson, MSc PGCE MCSP, Michael Hurley, PhD, Fiona Jones, PhD

What are the clinical implications of knee crepitus to individuals with knee osteoarthritis? An observational study with data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative Marcella Ferraz Pazzinattoa,b, Danilo de Oliveira Silvaa,b, Nathálie Clara Fariaa, Milena Simicc, Paulo Henrique Ferreirac, Fábio Mícolis de Azevedoa, Evangelos Pappas c.