Does your body make noises during movement? Each of these snap, crackles and pops has their own name and sometimes-common causes. “Crepitus” is used as a general term for body noise (including flatulence and rattling lungs) – but when the term is used in reference to your joints it describes any of the disturbing crackling, crunching and grating-type sounds that occur with movement.  It is the Latin word for rattling or creaking and has the same root as the word “creepy” – which literally means “having a creeping feeling in the flesh”.  This is where anatomy meets etymology.  Two of my favorite things!  Those disturbing noises emanating from your joints certainly are “creepy” – in the most literal sense of the word.

I often hear the sounds of others’ joints grinding, crunching and crackling when I teach movement, most notably from students’ knees and ankles.  Pretty much anytime I instruct students into a squat, I’m greeted by a compliant chorus of crackling knees.  And while some of this could be relatively harmless “popping” (see Part IV on Friday), it’s also possible that the sounds are symptomatic of something more serious –  like worn down cartilage coatings.  In this case, what you’re hearing is the sound of two rough, damaged joint surfaces grating across one another.  Cree-py!

Tendons and ligaments also surround the knee joint are another potential source of the “sounding off” that occurs when the knee is in motion during the transition from standing to squatting (for more info on this, see Part II)

Keep joints in good alignment by maintaining balance and symmetry through all of the surrounding tissues. A good way to do this is to develop a well-rounded stretching and strengthening regimen for all the muscles that surround and influence the position of the knee, including your hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors and your TFL and IT band.

Make some space in your knee joint with this easy knee stretch from Jill on the #OWNShow


Come back Friday for the last installment of this 4 part series, Snap, Crackle and Pop – Part IV: Pop!

 

This article is part 3 of a 4-part series on interpreting sounds from the joint space. Come back Friday to learn about synovial joints that snap!

Enjoyed this article? Read Snap, Crackle and Pop – Part I: A Synovial Joint Primer and Snap, Crackle and Pop – Part II: Snap

 

Amanda Tripp

It was love at first Sun Salutation for Amanda Tripp ... who was introduced to yoga as a teen when her mom brought home a video. Eventually, she sought out living, breathing teachers to help direct and deepen her practice. Her teachers have been inspirational; her yoga practice: transformational. Amanda felt the call to share the healing benefits of practice with others and completed a 250-hour teacher training program at the Yoga Centre of Burlington. Continuing studies led her to the work of Jill Miller and certification as a Yoga Tune Up® teacher. Amanda's classes speak to the body, breath, mind and heart as she guides students toward greater ease of being.

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Genevieve

Is there a difference between the sound of worn down cartilage coating versus bursas? Also, thank you so much for adding an example of how to stretch the knee to help alleviate it. Very helpful!

Sara M

I really like the knee stretch with the towel, gentler than the balls when starting and can easily be done seated (as stiff knees sometimes make it hard to get down to the mat). Also appreciate the importance of balance symmetry for good alignment, to keep within the other 50% with healthy knees!

marie josée packwood

Why do I only have the sound and not the picture when I click on Easy knee stretch ? Loved the info

Amber Bilak

I too have tried the knee stretch with a YTU ball, but not a towel. I will try with a towel.

Kammy Fung

I’m looking forward to find out what kind of snapped consider healthy snap. “Crepitus” is what I need to observe in my self care.

Katherine Streeton

Ben Blazke excellent question. I too often hear crackles when I roll around my shoulder blades. I wouldn’t advise you to stop rolling altogether. You can’t really go wrong with the RMM balls although you don’t want to place them directly on your spine. I recommend either using Jill Miller’s “The Roll Model” book as a reference or attending a RMM training to learn more about anatomy and different rolling techniques as well as where to place the balls exactly. Hope that helps!

Ben Blazke

What if the snap or crackle is caused by rolling on the balls? I can sometimes hear crackles when rolling over my shoulder blades. Should I stop rolling?

Jess Blake

I love the explanation of the word “crepitus”! I have had creaky knees for most of my life. I always thought is was inherited from my dad because his joints are also very loud. I realize now that even if I inherited the same body structure as him, I can actually do something about it through mindful physical movement and massage!

Ernie

Knees are one of the most common complaints and thanks for shedding light on the importance of both stretching and strengthening knee relevant muscles. I used to wonder why one corner of my knee would be unhappy and now I know it is probably because some of the muscles that surround my knees are stronger than others. Time to give those neglected ones a workout. Thanks!

Steven Custodio

Knee Spain can show when you least expect it. I never had issues with my knees, pigeon wasn’t an issue but earlier this year I went for a run, wasn’t really into it but wanted to check it off my to do list and, and had to stop after a few km cause of this sudden pinch feeling in my knee. Since then pigeon doesn’t feel so good so have to modify it. I’ve been doing some knee stretches (not as often as I should) but have been noticing a difference, it’s so much easier with a towel than with… Read more »

Andree-Anne Gagnon

I have been experiencing crepitus at the base of my skull for the last year or so. After some exploration, I have come to the conclusion that my Splenius capitis and Semispinalis capitis are in dire need of some love and tlc (from a series of 3 car accidents over an 18 month period 18 years ago). I have asked many manual therapists if whiplash syndrome can eventually cause damage to joint surface and have yet to get a clear answer so for now, i’ll keep looking and exploring and taking care of myself to see if the crepitus gets… Read more »

Stephanie

I’ve done this stretch with a therapy ball but have never added the contract/relax. Will do this next time – and will try the exercise with a towel instead to change things up. Another great article! Thanks.

Mona Laflamme

Thanks to bringing awareness to the problem of crepitus. IT often happens to one of my knees which I have to check alignement while in flexion cause my joint does not stack correctly. Shall explore more the origin of my problem.

Barbara

I’ve been having crepitus in my knees and occasionally my right hip. I am fairly loose-jointed and it doesn’t cause me any pain. My doctor said it’s harmless. I would love to believe her! Do you think that crepitus always has to mean something’s wrong? Many thanks.

Emily

Crepitus – thanks for the new word! I teach a class with an older clientele and this is certainly an issue. Lots of sounds when we deep knee bend. I’ll demo this knee stretch for them.

Kendra

I always have people I work with ask me questions about the snaps, crackle and popping they hear in their joints. What a great explanation of the extremes of the noises we hear: harmless vs. something more serious. I think it’s important that people recognize that not all sound within the body is harmful, but if it’s painful it is definitely something that should be addressed. Surrounding the knees it is especially important to maintain good symmetry through the tissues to ensure proper alignment!

Ann Starr

I get complaints from my clients frequently that they hear “crepitus” while going up a flight of stairs.

Bree

Yes, I’m becoming much more aware of my own crackles and grinding and really trying to find the alignment that helps to alleviate it. Will the crackles every fully go away? Time will tell, I suppose. Thank you for this post!

Kelly

With knee replacement surgery rampant, its good to realize theres still hope with self care route

Andi

My knees have been cracking since I was very young but they did’t hurt or really bother me. Now that I am teaching yoga, I find the cracking sound very annoying to me. I believe my Yin clients dont appreciate a loud cracking sound over head when I am walking around the room therefore I will make more of an effort to develop a well-rounded stretching and strengthening regimen for all the muscles that surround and influence the position of the knee, including your hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors and your TFL and IT band. And will try Jill Miller’s easy knee… Read more »

Suzanne

I can’t remember a time when my knees did not pop/crack when I go into a squat position .
I have had chondromalacia since I was a teenager . I wish I knew then what I know now about body alignment and strengthening .

Michelle Tan

Thanks for the information! Yup, there are often crackling and popping noises coming from my ankles and knees. Especially my knees when walking up and down stairs, and squatting. Thanks for the suggestions
for keeping joints in good alignment by establishing a thorough stretching and strengthening routine for the muscles that surrounding the knee.

Andrea

I have often heard this “creepy” noise and now know that its the sound of two rough, damaged joint surfaces grating across one another. The reminder to keep balance and symmetry all around the joint is key.

Sholina

Thank you for the reminder. My knee caps have shifted laterally and I haven’t made it a priority to exercise the adductors to encourage the opposite. Adductor slides anyone?

John

My knees crack often when I squat. Ankles too. I hope it’s more harmless popping than the cartilage wearing through. I’d imagine that’d be pretty painful, but now I’ll keep an eye (or ear) on it.

Miao Zhang

Ugh… knee pop? Totally me coming out of Warrior II. It’s nice to know the potential reasons of why this is happening. I also like Jill’s method of creating space in knee using the towel. We’ve been doing the same thing for sleeping hero and child’s pose. Guess it’s the same idea.

Adriana Robertson

I’d heard about putting a towel between the knees but had never been introduced to the contracting aspect of it. Looking forward to trying this exercise and seeing how it affects my knee joints.

Austin Way

Great suggestions for keeping the knee healthy and strong to help avoid this annoying crack in knee joint. Thank You!!

Marianne

Love the etymology piece! And yes creepy to know what the sound is but also reassuring to know that is the first step to fix it rather then worsening it 🙂

Pia G

I find I have more cracking and snapping in the winter months than in summer. I’ve never had pain in my knee, so never thought there was a major issue. Someone showed me this stretch before, but never with the “contract and relax” instruction of contracting the muscles of hamstring and calf with the foot raised. Tried it again with concentrating on contracting and relaxing and it really helps.

Ali Bell

So much better an explanation than ‘bubbles of gas/ air’ in the joint…. Now that is creepy!

Christiane Parcigneau

I have a lot of “creepy” sounds coming from my joints. Because it didn’t really hurt when I was younger, I never thought much of it, but now that I’m experiencing joint pain, I’m working on gently fixing my body. I tried the towel exercise in the video and noticed a difference in my knees.

Tara Kachroo

I don’t often have knee poping sounds but I tried out this stretch the Jill demonstrated in the video and liked it. Thanks

Lesley

My son is at this very moment trying the technique in the video above on his knee joint. He has osgood shlatters and suffers a lot of pain in this joint due to inflamation. I’ve enjoyed the three articles on joint noises! We will be creating a regime for Carter to create strength, length and symmetry around this knee.

Caitlin

I am a constant cracker! I always have been. All joints are very noisy and most times there is relief with each crack. I know some of this may be due to blindpots, but I think with me it is somehow the constructon of things. No matter how much rolling or strengthening…the cracks still come…

Leslie

I enjoyed reading all four parts of your informative work about our noisy joints. Now I have a handy new word: crepitus. It seems better than the word “scritchy” that I have used to describe the sound of my shoulder blades against my ribs.
Every week, I conduct a chorus of chirping ankle joints, but we roll and roll them until they move smoothly into quietude.

Karolina hess

My joints have always been cracking and I’m going to keep on exploring. I teach yoga and I can frequently hear popping joints. Some might be just harmless and I know generally speaking joint movements are a good thing. This simple stretch aided by contraction seems like an easy way to help soft tissues stay healthy.

Karen Smereka

I knew about using a towel as a spacer but I learned to do the contract/relax in this video. I guess it makes sense to do the strengthening part as well to help heal the knee and prevent crepitis (new word – thanks)

Sara

Thanks Jill for emphasizing the important of strength and flexibility of hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors and your TFL and IT band for knee health. Through my own journey from lee pain to no knee pain I have also found that hip flexibility is important for my knees to be safe and happy in a variety of yoga poses and well as activities of daily life like sitting cross legged.

Vanessa Ambroselli

Every time I walk up a flight of stairs I feel like I am part of a knee cracking band! My yoga teacher assured me that cracking and popping is TOTALLY OK, yet my body was telling me otherwise. I am going to try this knee stretch to help prevent more popping and cracking from occurring in the future!

sarah soggs

It’s definitely alarming to hear noises that often seem ominous when we move, however, quite often the sounds are often begnign when unaccompanied by pain. Nonetheless, it’s always reassuring ago ask and have help interpreting what the cause may be. More often then not, there is some associated malalignment or length tension imbalance in and around the joint….

Ashley

I love the suggestions for keeping the knee healthy and strong by working all the muscles around it. I definitely need to work on this area in my body.

Brent

I like the seated variation of using the towel with your heel on the chair and then using contract/relax. Good stuff!

MICHELLE

This is great! i am excited to have some background information to explain to my students and some tips to help keep them safe, a Knee class perhaps. Thanks for sharing.