Why does my joint suddenly forget it's supposed to bend that direction?
August 16, 2010 12:25 PM   Subscribe

You know that pain when you go to shift your body position and it suddenly feels like your leg, knee, arm, shoulder (or whatever) moved slightly out of joint and if you straighten it out, it will snap?

This happens to me every so often. Yesterday was a good example: I'm sitting in my easy chair, watching tv, minding my own business. But when I went to stand up, I got a sudden sharp pain in my right hip. It felt like my leg shifted just slightly out of its proper position and if I fully extended it (which I was in the process of doing when the pain occurred), that my leg would just snap where the painful friction was felt.

I know that it wouldn't really snap, because these little cricks happen periodically. Once I get fully straightened out, the pain is gone and there is no lasting problem. From experience, I know that it's more of a mental trick where I just have to force myself to move through the pain instead of stopping my movement or retreating to my previous position.

But my question is, what is the best way to force myself through this pain? Does it help to rub the muscle next to it? Does it help to try to move the joint in the opposite direction? Maybe there is no answer to this- but since this happens frequently enough (and I know it has happened to other people), there must be a cause. Therefore, there must be a best-action solution.

Full disclosure, I do have arthritis problems and I do have a significant amount of metal in my body that impedes flexibility range somewhat- but I'm talking about normal body movements, nothing extreme. I don't have any genetic disorder or anything like that. I really feel that this is a common, minor, freak occurrance kind of thing. Please don't suggest seeing a chiropractor because as I said, these are just rogue pains in random joints, not a reoccurring, persistant issue. (nothing against chiropractors, I just think this is a different issue)

Does anyone know what I'm talking about?! Do you know what causes that and how to fix it with the least amount of pain- no matter how brief that pain may be?
posted by Eicats to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I frequently get this in my shoulders, along with some other friends of mine, we all have backgrounds in sports like baseball, volleyball, or something upper body dominant. I know my shoulders are extremely tight, and im working on their flexibility issues, but before i would get the same kind of sensation of just being stuck. There wasn't really pain associated, but i do feel if i went any further in the same direction, something bad would happen.

So in short, i know what you're talking about, but i'm not sure what fix to apply in your situation, besides working on glute, hamstring, calve flexibility, along with your IT Band
posted by soss at 1:07 PM on August 16, 2010

What works for me when that happens is to bend the joint in the opposite direction first. Usually it only feels like it's "catching" in one direction, and moving it the other way seems to unhook whatever is getting stuck. So for your example where standing up made your hip feel awful, I would probably have pulled my thigh up toward my chest a bit (maybe sitting back down to do so), and then given it another try.
posted by vytae at 1:31 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I, too, get this in my right hip. I thought I was having some sort of freak-thing happening, so I'm happy to see your question. I have no suggestions on how to best deal with it, since my technique mostly consists of saying 'Owowowowowowow!' loudly and hissing through my teeth as I try to find a more comfortable position.
posted by Brody's chum at 1:34 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

This happens to me, most often in my hip area. It makes it very difficult to put my leg in any sort of bent position, which motorcycle riding difficult, to say the least. I usually fix it by standing up and rotating my leg, or if I'm riding, just fully extending my leg a few times. I figure a nerve has gotten stuck or pinched, and I just need to move around until it un-sticks itself.
posted by lholladay at 1:59 PM on August 16, 2010

This happens to me too on occasion! It feels like my hip and my leg are a wishbone about to snap. Anyway, what helps me is to massage that sore place and keep my hand on it while I slowly move around until I can move normally again.
posted by katillathehun at 2:56 PM on August 16, 2010

The shoulder issues soss is talking about usually come about when the rotator cuff muscles are weak - they fail to rotate the shoulder blade upwards to let the arm go all the way up- the clunk/crack is usually bone hitting bone. Hips don't have this same problem - you only get bone clunking if you're doing ballet etc.

If you're getting shooting pains down the leg, that's nerve impingement. Massage and keeping movement around the joints helps, though some people are unlucky and are born with the sciatic nerve growing -through- a muscle, which means it'll aways be a problem.

If you're getting a tightness, you might want to check and see if you have scar/binding tissue - mostly earned from injuries, though if you were bedridden or non-moving for a good portion of time, that could also earn enough adhesions to bind down your fascia.

The worst case would be total joint degeneration (which is possible given arthritis) in which case you would have fragments of stuff IN the joint capsule, getting hung up on the "hinges". In which case, a little movement/shaking moves the bits out of the way, but the bigger problem is.. of course finding a way to preserve your joints.
posted by yeloson at 3:30 PM on August 16, 2010

I get this problem in my hip after taking long plane flights (10 hours+) - not at any other time. I notice it when I stand up and exit the plane, and always imagined it as the thigh bone getting a little bit out of place, and then needing to "pop" back into the socket.

Since it seems to be due to sitting in uncomfortable cramped positions for a long time, a way to pre-empt it would probably be to shift position and stretch often.

I haven't found a way to make the inevitable "popping" any more pleasant. I usually end up limping up the ramp to exit the plane, and having it pop back in as I'm walking.
posted by scrambles at 6:16 PM on August 16, 2010

Response by poster: Well, at least it is heartening to see that others have the same problem. At least I know I haven't been clueless about an obvious solution. But unfortunately, that means there isn't really a solution! For now I'm marking Brody's chum as the best answer, simply because "saying 'Owowowowowowow!' loudly and hissing through my teeth as I try to find a more comfortable position" is a better reaction than my current "Eeeei!" and sudden freeze tag position.

Seems like the consensus is really just to massage and gently limp your way back into place. But I'll leave this open a little longer in case someone has anyting to add. Thanks, all!
posted by Eicats at 7:24 AM on August 17, 2010

Do you have anyone who can gently tug straight out on your foot? My hip gets out of place fairly often, and I ask my hubby to pull on my leg until I feel it pop back into place. It hurts for a minute, but less than getting up and walking around to try to pop it back in.
posted by Addlepated at 10:27 AM on August 18, 2010

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