Our knees and other joints can pop, grind, crunch, and make a variety of interesting sounds. Especially if you are increasing or changing your physical activity level, these sounds can be alarming. Often they cause worry about the health of the joint and whether something serious could be wrong.
What makes those sounds: There are a lot of complex tissues in our joints, and most of them can make some noise. Tiny bubbles can form in the joint fluid due to changes in joint pressure, and they make a sound when they pop. Ligaments and tendons can make a click or pop sound as they move over a bony lump and snap back into place. Cartilage can develop uneven areas as we age, and a grinding or crunching sound can be from those rough surfaces gliding across each other.
When to worry: As long as there is no pain or swelling, these sounds are not a reason to worry. They can come from age, use, or healed injuries, and the noises are not part of the alarm system of your body. Our body uses pain and swelling to indicate that there is a problem, and that is how you know when the joint needs extra attention and treatment. And if you ever experience a sudden pop followed by pain, that is almost always an injury that needs treatment.
Support for Joint Health: There are a few keys to supporting joint health, whether they are just noisy or are causing discomfort. Bodywork and movement classes both help restore alignment so that the right muscles and connective tissues are working together, and to relieve muscle tension that can contribute to joint pain. Hydration of the tissues is also key to keeping joints supple and healthy, which is especially supported by bodywork and therapeutic movement. (Hydration in this case means more than just drinking enough liquids; it means using movement or manual therapies to move fluids through the tissues themselves.) Acupuncture is also very effective at treating pain and the imbalances that may be causing that pain.
Joints like knees and shoulders that make interesting sounds without pain are not a cause for alarm. They can serve as reminders to stay committed to our self care, but do not indicate serious damage or injury to the joint.