There are different reasons why you might hear cracking noises in your body during exercise or normal movement. These noises are called crepitus, according to Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz on Cleveland.com. The cause is not always easy to diagnose, but it usually isn't serious and is generally treatable.
Your joints contain cartilage that acts as a cushion between the bones that form the joint. If the cartilage is intact, your bones will glide smoothly over each other within the joint when you exercise. If you suffer from osteoarthritis, this cartilage has started to deteriorate. One of the symptoms of this condition can be a cracking sound when you move the affected joint, as well as pain that worsens after exercise, and stiffness and swelling in the joint. There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but anti-inflammatory medication, joint supports, gentle exercise and reduced body weight can help ease the condition.
Synovial fluid forms a lubricating membrane over the cartilage in your joints to help ease movement. When you stretch a joint beyond its normal range of movement -- when playing sports, for example, or even cracking your knuckles -- there is a change in pressure in the fluid. This causes the gas to form bubbles, according to West Coast Family Chiropractic. As they burst, the bubbles make a popping sound.
Tendon and Ligament Movement
Another possible cause of joint cracking is your tendons and ligaments snapping over the joint during movement, according to West Coast Family Chiropractic. As your joint changes from one position to another -- for example, when playing a sport like tennis or football -- the ligaments and tendons can slide over any protuberances on your bones, making a cracking noise as they move into position. This is often because your ligaments and tendons can become tight through exercise, so gentle stretching can help.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there is usually no reason to treat cracking noises in the joints unless you feel pain, swelling or stiffness when the noise occurs. If you are carrying extra weight, however, a low-fat diet and regular exercise will not only help you reduce weight and improve your overall health and well-being but will also reduce the strain on your joints. This may reduce the cracking and popping sounds in weight-bearing joints, such as your knees and ankles -- especially if the noises are associated with osteoarthritis, according to SportsInjuryClinic.net.
- Cleveland.com: Those cracking sounds during exercise might your body saying, 'Take it easy': the You Docs; by Dr Michael Roizen and Dr Mehmet Oz
- SportsInjuryClinic.net: Arthritis of the knee (Osteoarthritis)
- West Coast Family Chiropractic: Why Do My Joints Pop and Crack?
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Patient Guide To Joint Cracking & Popping
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.