Snap, Crackle, Pop…Why Does My Body Sound Like Rice Bubbles?

Posted on August 12th, 2011

As physiotherapists we often get asked “what causes my joints to click?” or “is it bad to to crack my neck etc?”. The simple answer to these questions is that there is actually no single cause or explanation for these noises. There are many different structures in the human body that can be responsible for snapping, cracking and popping sounds. Today we will discuss some of the more common ones:

Cavitation:

The joints in the human body are surrounded by a capsule made from dense, fibrous connective tissue and are filled with a clear substance called synovial fluid, which helps to lubricate the joint. The noise you hear when you ‘crack’ your joints happens because you are actually creating a slight vacuum within the joint by moving the ends of the bones slightly apart, and therefore creating a larger volume within the joint space. This reduces the pressure in the joint and any gases dissolved in the synovial fluid form gas bubbles, bursting due to the pressure change. Have you noticed that usually after you hear the gas bubbles pop that it doesn’t happen again for at least another half hour? This is because it takes another 30 minutes for the gases to redissolve into the fluid.

You may also notice that once you crack a joint it stays more mobile for a period of time. This is because the muscles and ligaments surrounding the joint loosen up. There is currently no evidence to suggest that these noises are harmful or cause arthritis. However, some studies have shown that if you chronically crack you neck you can cause your ligaments to loose elasticity, as the joints are forced beyond their normal range and the ligaments are stretched out over time. Eventually this can cause a condition known as hypermobility. Muscles around a hypermobile joint will have to work harder to keep the joints stable and subsequently the muscles tire easier, which may lead to pain.

Snapping:

You may also hear a loud noise when a tendon or scar tissue moves over a bone. This generally occurs where a bone is prominent or sticks out and the muscle flicks over it when you move in a particular way.

Crepitus:

Crepitus is the term that describes a creaking noise that is made when two rough joint surfaces rub against each other, such as what occurs with the condition of arthritis.

Painful clicking/cracking:

If you hear a crack or a click that is associated with pain, it can sometimes be a warning that there may be something more serious going on, such as tearing of a tendon, ligament, cartilage or bone breaking. If you are concerned with pain associated with a click, be sure to speak to your physiotherapist at PhysioCare Townsville.


Grower’s Pain

Posted on August 1st, 2011

Grower’s pain is a collective term for pain that the younger athlete experiences usually during periods of growth.

As children grow, their bones undergo big changes and at times their bony structures can be quite fragile and soft.  Grower’s pain occurs when there is pain at the bony site where the muscle tendon attaches.  During periods of rapid bone growth, the rate at which a child’s muscles grow is slower compared to that of the bones. Consequently, the muscles are stretched and pulled from the bone to compensate. This causes pain at the attachment point on the bone.

Common areas for Grower’s pain include the back of the heel (Sever’s lesion), below the knee (Osgood Schlatter lesion) and at the knee (Sinding-Larsen-Johansson lesion).

The best management for Grower’s pain is to modify the child’s activity by reducing the number of sports they play. This condition is self limiting and therefore if the child feels they can continue their sports then it is at their risk that they continue. Complete rest from any sporting activities will reduce or eliminate the pain but will not stop the grower’s pain from occurring. Grower’s pain will cease once the child stops growing or their muscles have grown to match the growth of their bones.