Im sure we’ve all experienced it. Some love it. To others it’s like fingers down a chalk board.  It’s the sound of a joint popping. Joint noises are an extremely common occurrence. Your knee’s crack when yo get up, an ankle pops when you rotate them or a neck that cracks during a head check in the car. Just about any joint in our body can make a noise. But what is it? Is it bad for us? Can it be doing damage? And will I get arthritis from it? Here we break down some of the myth surrounding this highly effective treatment technique, known as joint manipulation. 

What are the joint noises?

There are 2 answers to this. The noise you hear when one of our practitioners performs a manipulation or you crack your knuckles, is nitrogen gas being released from the joint. All our joints have a fluid within in (Synovial Fluid). This fluid allows the joint surfaces to slide over each other, reducing friction.  This fluid contains nitrogen gas. When the joint is taken through a quick stretch and release phase, this gas is released, resulting in a “popping” or cracking” sound.

Joint noises

Our other patients report a “snapping” or “cracking” type noise when they rotate their ankle over and over, or doing push ups in the gym. This noise is not really the joint cracking but rather a ligament of tendon rubbing. Try gently stretching the area, to alleviate this noise. 

These joint noises we experience can come and go, depending on how you position your body when you sit and sleep, and how you use your body when you move. “Motion is lotion” is a term often used. One of the best way to reduce the spontaneous cracking and reduce the joint noises you experience is to constantly lubricate the joints with regularly movement.

Here is a video published by the New Scientist of a finer being cracked under MRI – as you can see in the middle section is the gas bubble being release… SO satisfying!  

So why do we do it?

When performed properly, with adequate care and skill, it can be a highly effective treatment technique to: 

  • Reduce pain
  • Improve range of motion 
  • Release muscular tightness.

The Osteopath’s at Equilibrium are all highly skilled in this technique. Being extremely specific, using minimal force and always ensuring our patients are 100% comfortable. Rest assured if you are NOT comfortable with this treatment style we will opt for another technique.

Will cracking give me arthritis?

We never like to disagree with our mothers or grandmothers, but quite simply the answer is NO. This is an old wives tale. There have been studies which have disproved their theory. While there have been other reports suggesting spinal manipulation provides significant benefit in the treatment of acute back pain.

When is the cracking sound bad?

If you experience cracking and joint noise which is associated with pain or swelling, this is something that needs to be investigated. Simple joint noises as mentioned above are not usually associated with pain or swelling. So if you are experiencing regular cracking or snapping which is associated with pain, it’s best to get this investigated.

If you have any questions or are concern please speak to your therapist. Rest assured the Osteopath’s at Equilibrium Sports and Spinal clinic always take a thorough case history, identifying any factors which may preclude us from using this technique. We pride ourselves on choosing the correct treatment technique, for you and your body.

If you have any questions or would like further information as to how we can help you, feel free to chat with via the Drift chat box in the bottom right hand corner. Alternatively you can email us at info@equilibriumsas.com.au