Is Joint Cracking Bad?

It’s a common question from athletes and non-athletes. You’ve heard from people around you that it could cause arthritis, so obviously you’re concerned.


Who wants to get arthritis? Arthritis never sounds great.


I haven’t read that there is definite proof that it causes arthritis. There are things I look for at the joint to make sure it doesn’t need to be checked out. Does it cause pain? Does it feel stable? Is there swelling or a sandpaper noise?


Why are those the things I’m looking for?


  • Instability is not supposed to happen. I often see this at the knee because you’re walking on it. It will give out suddenly. It’s a warning that you may have caused damage to ligaments, cartilage, or meniscus.


  • Pain is a warning that something’s not quite right. So you really don’t want pain with cracking and popping sounds in your joints.


  • A sandpaper sound usually happens at the knee when you have bone rubbing on bone. Not always. It’s a very specific sound and very different from the loud cracks that happen without issues.


  • Swelling and heat are common inflammation signs that mean something is not right. If you have swelling and heat, chances are you’re feeling pain.


If you aren’t experiencing the warnings I mentioned, then things should be fine. If you’re worried then imaging would be the best way to see if there’s arthritis in the area. But, you should know that arthritis is normal and you might have it. What you’re looking for is significant arthritis in that joint, and that’ll be something the radiologist will mention.


Can you get rid of the cracking?


Possibly, but I don’t think many have had success stopping the “non-harmful” cracking. Unless you’re cracking your own joints, then it’s pretty easy to make it stop.


L.


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