One of the common questions we encounter at Active Seniors is about noisy joints, also known as crepitus. Hearing a noise in your neck as you turn your head can be very disconcerting, with many people wondering if this is an indicator of damage. Noisy joint are extremely common and mostly normal. Let’s uncover some of the possible causes of joint noises in this article.
Let’s start with clicking noises in the hips and the shoulders. Some of the possible culprits of the noise are actually the tendons and ligaments. In both the hip and the shoulder area, there are a couple of thick ligaments and tendons that can cross over a bony ridge and create a clicking sensation. In the shoulder, it is usually felt in the front of the joint when the arm is elevated or lowered. In the hip area, it is usually felt right in the groin area when you are lying down and straighten or bend the leg with the foot elevated. In both areas the clicking sensation is unpleasant but not necessarily painful, and a slight change in the position in which you lift or lower the arm or leg can remove the sensation completely.
In contrast, the spinal joints are often noisy due to pressure changes within the joints themselves. This is usually not painful at all but can be very worrying and seem louder especially when this happens in the neck. Most of the joints in the body have a capsule that contains synovial fluid. This fluid reduces friction and also provides nutrition to the joint. When the joints move, the pressure within the joint capsule changes. Sometimes this pressure change causes the fluid to change into a gas nd the fluid can also separate rapidly from the capsule itself. The noises you hear are usually associated with these processes.
The main concern with joint noises is when they are associated with pain. One of the most common joints that can be both noisy and painful, is the knee joint. Over time, mechanical stress can cause the smooth cartilage that lines the ends of the bones to wear thin and also causes the joint to adapt by laying extra bone down around the joint. Both of these changes can change the way that the joint moves, creating the opportunity for what is often described as a painful grinding of the joint. It is important not to avoid moving these painful noisy joints, but to try different variations of exercises to allow you to build strength in a comfortable way.Joint noises are unfortunately a normal part of life and become more prevalent with advancing age. However, unless these noises are painful or are associated with any swelling they are nothing to be overly concerned with.