Understanding Joint Crepitus and Arthritis

ArthritisJoint popping and arthritis. Are they related?

Are you familiar with the sound of a popping joint? Joint popping occurs due to tribonucleation – the creation of a small space between bones.

People view popping joints as a serious sign of unhealthy joints, some to the point of avoiding strenuous activity. Despite this misconception, research shows that healthy joints can also ‘pop’, and are not always related to health conditions. To date, there is no evidence to suggest they are cause for concern.

How to tell if it is a concern?

Physical therapists would identify condition-related joint popping as popping that results in pain, swelling, limited range of motion, or with a history of injury.

Can some conditions make it worse?

In some cases, the frequent popping of joints occurs in the form of arthritis. Two common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


Osteoarthritis is characterized by “wear and tear” of the cartilage on either end of the bone. Over time, the cartilage becomes thinner, causing joints to rub against each other.

Osteoarthritis is common in individuals over the age of 65. Other factors that can contribute to early osteoarthritis are obesity, injury, overuse, and genetics. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include morning stiffness, pain that decreases with movement, swelling, clicking or cracking within the joint itself.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that can affect the entire body. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly identifies normal joints as “abnormal,” causing painful wide-range inflammation. This can be controlled with medication to avoid extensive damage to the bones and surrounding cartilage.

Rheumatoid arthritis is more common in females around the ages of 30–60 years old. The symptoms are similar to osteoarthritis; however, a key difference is that pain and stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis generally do not resolve with movement or exercise.

Inflammation Around Tendons

Inflammation surrounding tendons can also cause crunching, cracking or popping sounds. Injury to a tendon or its surrounding areas, such as tendonitis (tennis elbow), bursitis, or tenosynovitis may contribute to this.

Tips For Treatment

Arthritis can be managed with conservative therapy such as specific exercises for affected areas, self-care as well as manual therapy by your chiropractor. However, treatment from a combination of healthcare providers may be needed. If you are experiencing discomfort in your joints or would like more information about arthritis, visit OnePointHealth today.