Do your joints make noises, such as snap crackle and pop? Before you can become a joint whisperer, you must get clear about some basic joint anatomy. So, first things first: A joint is the place where two or more bones meet. Without joints your body would be one giant immobile bone.
That said, not all joints allow for movement. Fibrous and cartilaginous joints allow for little to no movement while synovial joints allow movement in many directions. Let’s take a closer look at synovial joints, as they are moving joints we are most often concerned (ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists). These are the joints that typically create disturbing sounds and sensations during movement – although they are certainly not the ONLY joints capable of noise.
Knowing the structures that are in and around your synovial joints provides a massive clue as to how to interpret the sounds they make. Here is a short list of some of the structures you will find in and around synovial joints:
1) Cartilage – a layer of smooth covering on the ends of the bones that allows them to glide over each other without friction.
2) Sometimes the bones that make up a joint fit together nicely; sometimes they do not. Luckily, your body comes already equipped with spacers, wedges, fatty pads, rings and stuffing to create a better fit and provide some cushioning.
3) Ligaments – fibrous connective tissues that act as straps to hold the bones of your joints together.
4) A bursa (a small sack filled with synovial fluid) is usually positioned between moving parts to reduce friction and keeps things sliding and gliding smoothly (keeping tendon gliding smoothly over bone, for example)
5) A ‘joint capsule’ surrounds and holds the joint together – a connective tissue container lined with a membrane that produces lubricating fluid for your joint.
6) Synovial fluid fills the space inside the joint capsule (like a water balloon) and between the cartilage surfaces. In addition to facilitating smooth, painless movement between bones, it delivers nutrients and oxygen to the cartilage. Joint movement circulates synovial fluid and feeds the cartilage.
Sound typically arises from a joint when something moved out of position or is creating friction. Knowing what’s inside the joint space provides important clues for deciphering the meaning of those snapping, crackling and popping sounds.
This article is part 1 of a 4-part series on interpreting sounds from the joint space. Come back Friday to learn about synovial joints that snap!