Popping Noise in Joints
March 1, 2004 12:24 PM   Subscribe

Rotating my wrists, my thumbs, ... in certain ways elicits a soft cracking noise; imagine a more subdued version of cracking one's knuckles. While this isn't painful or particularly uncomfortable now, I'm concerned for the long-term. Any recommendations? I saw a doctor a year or so ago and he essentially just shrugged and said, you'll live. It hasn't gotten worse, but I'm worried that the condition will grow to be painful. Has anyone else experienced anything like this and, if so, what steps can be taken to remedy this?
posted by Raze2k to Health & Fitness (20 answers total)
When that happened to my mom, they diagnosed her with this. However, that might be totally different from your case, I don't know.

After the pain of getting it fixed surgically, I have a feeling she'd probably try letting her body heal it naturally first if it were to happen again.
posted by shepd at 12:30 PM on March 1, 2004

I get the same thing in my wrists and my ankles as well. I've never really worried about it. Unless this is something new, I wouldn't think it's cause for concern.
posted by trillion at 12:37 PM on March 1, 2004

People crack. I wouldn't worry about it unless it starts hurting and doesn't stop for a while. It's too easy to make a mountain of a molehill when dealing with vague symptoms and problems with vague descriptions (RSI, CTS, etc.)

(I wouldn't take advice from me, though, since I've had wrist problems for years.)
posted by callmejay at 12:39 PM on March 1, 2004

Response by poster: Well the cracking isn't limited to my hands (in rotating slightly, I just heard a portion of my back) and it's neither painful nor 'locking' in nature. I don't have trouble extending or contracting my fingers and I've had this condition for several years. It hasn't been uncomfortable, so I've only taken note of it. At any rate, thanks for the info :)
posted by Raze2k at 12:39 PM on March 1, 2004

Response by poster: Alright, thanks folks :)
posted by Raze2k at 12:40 PM on March 1, 2004

Upon further reflection, I'd like to add that cracking joints might be a sign of tightness. I think that when I'm looser and/or warmed up I crack less.
posted by callmejay at 1:19 PM on March 1, 2004

I've got this in my neck. It began after a mild sprain in one of my vertebrae. When I tilt my head forward and rotate my head left to right it goes *pop* again and again, as long as I keep doing it. No pain. But it's pretty creepy.

As for remedies, you should see if you can determine whether the popping is brought on by swelling. Does it recur after an icing of your wrist? Alernate ice and warm back and forth on a 5 minute rotation for half an hour and then see what happens. Ibuprofen will also reduce swelling. If you have swelling or inflammation in that wrist, there may be undue pressure on your joint and/or nerves.

If you spend all day at a computer, you should take the health of your wrists and hands seriously as it can become serious over time. But pain is your real indicator, not popping sounds.
posted by scarabic at 1:28 PM on March 1, 2004

A "more subdued version of cracking one's knuckles" sounds like the clicking and dull clunking I've had in my wrists and ankles since birth. It differs in that unlike joint cracking, it's repeatable and relieves no tension in the joint. I "crack" my knuckles, knees, hips, neck, elbows, shoulders, wrists and ankles, and the sensation and effect of this joint clunking or clicking is quite different. So far, it's caused me no problems at all and the medical advice I have received has been to ignore it.

If this is new, you might want to seek medical advice. If you've had it for some time, I don't imagine it is going to lead to any deterioration. Just keep an eye on it.
posted by majick at 1:33 PM on March 1, 2004

stretch. take yoga as needed.
posted by Hackworth at 4:18 PM on March 1, 2004

a lot of people (like myself) get the same cracking in their knees when they bend down first thing in the morning. i even get it in my left foot when i walk.

my condition is caused by the tendons in my extremities getting twanged like a guitar because of my movements. it's natural, and won't really get worse...it's just the tendon moving quickly and causing a "snap"
posted by taumeson at 4:19 PM on March 1, 2004

I have cracked every joint in my body. Most of them crack on a daily basis. Almost all those cracks are due to ligaments snagging on old scar tissue, or cartiledge snagging on cartiledge. Many of them can be traced back to a single seemingly-insignificant joint injury. None of them are getting any worse over the decades. Some of them might improve if I were to get serious about the mega-sized bottle of glucosamine I purchased...

I think your doctor was on the mark.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:30 PM on March 1, 2004

(the day my hip popped was the most disturbing. it was just so bloody wrong and it felt oh-so-nasty. next-most-disturbing was a ladder of cracks racing up my back one day when I stretched. thought I'd paralyzed myself for a moment!)
posted by five fresh fish at 4:31 PM on March 1, 2004

FFF is right (and, in the second post, lyrically evocative), at least in my experience. I can crack my wrists and fingers at will, and unfortunately do so habitually, and it sounds to everyone in the room like someone snapping a handful of spaghetti. Live with that image. I associate it with heavy usage of my hands, since the cracking and my carpal tunnel came at about the same time. Not something to worry about in itself, though.

The body is a weird and gross thing.
posted by Hildago at 5:25 PM on March 1, 2004

"I saw a doctor a year or so ago and he essentially just shrugged and said, you'll live."... best. doctor. quote. ever.

FFF is triple right. My hips used to crack all the time. Then that stopped. I've always cracked my back constantly (yogic spinal twists) - I think that's beneficial. Vertabrae out of line can cause problems in the long run.

Of course, in the long run, we're all dead - so to extend your doctor's point - "You'll live....for quite a number of years."
posted by troutfishing at 8:56 PM on March 1, 2004

the day my hip popped was the most disturbing

I occasionally pop/crack my sternum. I assume it's really the ligaments between the sternum-ey bones and the ribs, but the crackey-poppy feeling is right in the ol' breastbone (which has never been injured).

It feels really, well, weird.

Raze2K: if it really worries you, suck up the copay and see a doc. If you're worried about anything remotely medical, it's never a bad idea to suck up the copay and see a doc, if only to be buying a bit of peace-of-mind. If different docs keep telling you not to worry about it, I'd stop worrying about it unless you started getting pain.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:35 PM on March 1, 2004

My thumbs pop all the time. I can make the right one really crack if I work it just right, but sometimes it just pops from stretching it. My fingers pop as well when I stretch my hands. I blame it on keyboards and game controllers.
posted by tr33hggr at 6:36 AM on March 2, 2004

Okay, I've never popped my sternum. I had no idea such a thing was possible. I do not want it to happen.

My shoulder blades sound like cheesegraters rubbing over one another. That came from a wicked body-slam while skiing. My left ankle cracks like celery sticks; that from getting my foot jammed into the springs of a bunkbed. My left elbow, a chip of bone that keeps me from straightening my arm sometimes; result of a bad mountain-bike tumble. My knees are sound like bubblegum, and that seems to be genetics. Wrists, too.

I'm basically a one-man percussion band.

posted by five fresh fish at 9:05 AM on March 2, 2004

whenever I visit my chiropractor my verterbrae crack like gun shots
and I must say, it feels good
posted by matteo at 1:10 PM on March 2, 2004

and I must say, it feels good

No kidding, it's the most cathartic thing ever... when a doctor does it.
posted by Hildago at 3:45 PM on March 3, 2004

There's an awful lot of popping on this thread - it's almost as loud as those damn cavitating shrimp!
posted by troutfishing at 9:22 PM on March 3, 2004 [1 favorite]

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