Once I "pop," I can't stop
October 9, 2008 11:32 PM   Subscribe

"Pop!" goes... my entire body?

I've looked at the other "back/neck cracking" threads here, but mine seems a bit different. I'm a young female who works out and stretches 3x a week, yet I'm constantly "popping" or "cracking" my joints without meaning to. Especially when I'm lying down, but not limited to that.

We're talking ankles, knees, elbows, back, hips and pelvis all the time, shoulders, fingers, toes, you name it. Not even just when stretching. When I take a deep breath, my back pops. Shrug one shoulder-- Pop! When I tie my shoelaces-- hoo boy it's a staccato symphony. Friends have commented on it, saying how weird it is. I can also pop every joint in my fingers three or four different ways... Though I try not to do it often. That urban myth (?) about arthritis has me spooked.

None of the popping comes with pain of any sort. But it's a little embarrassing, and I'm wondering what I can do about it, and why it's happening. I stretch, I'm active, I'm young. I do have some slight scoliosis and am a tad duck-footed, but otherwise there's nothing wrong with me.

Any thoughts? Also, any truth to the popping --> arthritis myth?
posted by np312 to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Also, any truth to the popping --> arthritis myth?

No.
posted by All.star at 12:08 AM on October 10, 2008


Are you a hyper-flexor?
posted by batmonkey at 12:33 AM on October 10, 2008


The "popping" sound is a tendon sliding across a bony prominence. I have no idea why your tendons might be looser than most people's.

Do remember that tendons are like rubber bands, in that they stretch out and snap back, AND... also like rubber bands, they never quite snap back to where they were before. There's always a wee bit of stretch/elasticity loss.

I second the question about you being a 'hyper-flexor". People who are extraordinarily flexible don't get arthritis more than any other people, but they do have increasing problems with joint stability as they get older.
posted by reflecked at 1:05 AM on October 10, 2008


Completely anecdotal, but through my teens and twenties, I was never the kind of person who could "pop" any part of my body. But in my thirties, I began stretching, doing yoga and pilates and generally trying to unclench that which had been clenched most of my life. ;) I've found that the *more* flexible I get, the *more* I stretch and generally work out the stressed-out tight kinks I've carried around for years, the more I pop. Don't know if that helps...
posted by twiki at 5:35 AM on October 10, 2008


When my doctor heard me roll/crunch my shoulders, he told me to hit the gym and start doing exercises that would strengthen my joints (for the shoulders, shrugging with 45 lbs weights in each hand, for my knees, squats). The way he explained it to me, it wasn't so much that I had or lacked flexibility, it was that there was no other tissue besides the tendons to provide strength, support, and to control tension when the tendons wanted to pop out.

So in my case, it was that I was too skinny and needed to add muscle.
posted by SpecialK at 5:57 AM on October 10, 2008


I am not skinny and can crack nearly all my joints. I don't know if the arthritis is a myth or not, because my family has a history of arthritis and we all "pop". I've noticed that the fingers I crack more often are more swollen but I don't know if my need to crack them comes from the early stage arthritis or viceversa.
posted by uauage at 6:37 AM on October 10, 2008


I am a young, active woman like you (although not particularly flexible -- my pilates teacher makes fun of me a lot, actually) -- and like you, I pop a lot. After much worry and consulting every new doctor I have been to over the years, I've basically been told over and over that it's the tendon thing described above, there's nothing to be done about it, it's fairly common, and there's no reason to worry.

Why is it that I hear about more "hyper-" and "super-" things on AskMe than anywhere else on earth?
posted by obliquicity at 7:01 AM on October 10, 2008


Popping your knuckles isn't necessarily tendons snapping into and out of place, it can also be the sound of bubbles forming in the synovial fluid in your joints when you reduce the pressure in there - like if you pull on your fingers to make them pop. If you can't immediately pop them again, that's what's going on, because it takes a while for the bubbles to dissolve/liquify back into fluid.

Most of the all-over-the-body popping is probably the tendon thing, though, and I will second the advice given upthread to strengthen the muscles that support those joints. Tendons don't shrink back up given time, they just get looser as you age. If you're already popping all over the place now, you'll want to have something other than just your tendons to help keep your joints in place as you get older, and that something is strong muscles.
posted by vytae at 7:21 AM on October 10, 2008


It doesn't sound like you've had a child, but IME, pregnancy made every joint pop more for me, and it still continues. I also have more popping when I take an extremely hot shower, maybe from the release of all-over tension? I've heard the fluid/bubbles theory too, and it might make sense if your joints don't pop frequently.

You're mentioning that when you lie down, your joints pop. This happens to my hips and lower back if I lay on a completely flat, hard surface, as my body adjusts to the different distribution of weight (or I think so, anyway.) I've been trying to improve my posture and it's begun to happen less frequently, so it might be related.

Anyway, if it continues and you're uncomfortable about doing it in public, try and get everything out before you leave the house, while you continue to build strength and keep up with vitamins, fresh fruit & veggies, etc.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 7:47 AM on October 10, 2008


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