Call it what you want: Crepitus, Joint Cracking, Popping, Grinding, Crunching, Snapping, Clicking… we have all probably experienced it in at least a couple of joints, if not all. I decided to look into things a bit more and write a post about it after noticing a definite increase in the amount of crepitus I’m experiencing myself at the moment. Unfortunately, I think I’ve ended up with more questions than answers!
Crepitus of a joint can occur in Rheumatoid and Osteo Arthritis and is defined as the sound and sensation experienced when the cartilage around the joint has eroded away, reducing the joint cavity space and causing the surfaces to grind against each other. Most of the time it causes no pain and isn’t a sign of anything serious (but a release of gas build-up in the synovial fluid), but when it is accompanied by pain does it become a reason for concern?
In Rheumatoid Arthritis crepitus can arise when ‘inflammatory tissue invades the cartilage and bone surface and causes cartilage and bone tissue destruction’, in which case, crepitus can be considered a clinical sign of joint surface destruction. And this is what we all want to avoid. So does an increase in joint sounds signify that things need to be controlled better, or, by this point, is the damage already done?
You would think that if it was a significant symptom, it would be evaluated alongside other symptoms in clinical practice, but I know it’s not something that I have ever really discussed with my Rheumatologist, since other symptoms always seem more relevent. However, my worry is that sometimes we ignore what is right before us, the most obvious things, and I wouldn’t like this to be one of those times. If crepitus really is a signifier of joint damage and it is getting worse, then obviously I need to do something about it.
I only found minimal information on the subject in my internet research today but I’ll post links to the most useful information that I have found at the bottom of the page. Any further information anyone has would be greatly appreciated.
A couple of final things though. There were two suggestions that kept cropping up as ways to reduce crepitus (in addition to disease control) and they were:
- Increase your intake of Omega-3 through oily fish and supplements.
- Gentle, low impact exercises to help keep joints mobile – in particular swimming.
So, it looks like I’ll have to put up with the snap, crackle and popping for now.
Patient Guide To Joint Cracking (Johns Hopkins Orthopaedic Dept)
Joint Popping (Washington Orthopaedics)
Joint Cracking and Popping; Understanding the Noises Associated With Articular Release. (An Osteopathy-based article but still interesting)
Painful Cracking in Joints During Exercise (Live Strong)
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