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Joints that “Snap, Crackle and Pop”…..What is that and can Pilates help?

Do your joints sound like fireworks on the 4th of July?
Do your knees creak more than the steps you are climbing?
Do you like cracking your knuckles or your neck?
Do you ever wonder if cracking your joints can cause arthritis?
Do you wonder if there is a way to stop “cracking” and “popping” so much?

Odds are your body “snaps, crackles and pops” at some point during the day, everyday.
Sometimes those noises are just innocuous sounds that come with the territory of having a body with a lot of moving parts. But sometimes those sounds can be indicative of a bigger problem that can lead you down the road to arthritic changes in the joints.

It is important to know some of the causes of snapping and popping and know when those sounds are a symptom of a greater problem. It is also helpful to know what things you can do to reduce the problematic snapping and popping.

There are several causes of popping joints, some are problematic and some are not a big deal. Here are just a few of the main causes:

1. According to Wikipedia…”Cracking sounds occur when bubbles form in joints as they are pulled apart. Cavitation within the joint—small cavities of partial vacuum form in the synovial fluid and then rapidly collapse, producing a sharp sound.” This cause is usually not problematic, it is the typical cause of most cracking and popping. Studies show that cracking your knuckles or neck does NOT cause pre-arthritic changes. However, continual cracking of the joints CAN eventually cause instability of the joint which can lead you down a painful path.
2. Ligaments stretching and releasing – Again as noted in #1, this is usually not a problematic cause. However, continually overstretching of those ligaments can lead to joint instability.
3. Tight muscles around the joint can cause extra tension around the joint and sometimes when stretches, that joint pops as the tension is released.
4. Instability in a joint. This cause is usually indicative of a problematic issue. People who have a lot of mobility (dancers, gymnasts), will likely have a certain amount of instability in the joint. And it is this instability that leads to excessive wear and tear in the joint, thus potentially causing arthritic changes.
5. Arthritic changes to the joint. When there is consistent wearing and tearing to the joint, this can lead to arthritic changes to the joint. Eventually progressing to bones rubbing on each other, thus causing inflammation of the joint. Grinding and consistent popping of the joint is the sound associated with this cause.

When you should be concerned:

1. When the “popping” is consistently reproducible, meaning you can deliberately cause the popping over and over again.
2. When the “popping” has pain associated with it.
3. When the “popping” has associated grinding or shifting in the joint.

What should I do:

1. It is always good to consult a physician to obtain a clear diagnosis and plan of care.
2. Exercise! But exercise safely. Doing exercises to stretch the muscles around the joint if the cause is inflexibility of the muscles. Do exercises to strengthen and stabilize the joint can work to help create more protection around the joint. However, not all exercises are good. Exercises that lead to stress on the joint can cause more popping and instability. Consulting a good exercise trainer is always advised before beginning any exercise program.
3. Create a variety of exercises to your workout. Exercises to include flexibility and strengthening exercises. Again an experienced trainer or instructor can advise you on the best way to incorporate these types of exercises in your routine.
4. Do Pilates, both Mat and Equipment-based classes or sessions helps rebalance both strength and flexibility throughout the body.

How Pilates can help……

Pilates is a great form of exercise to include in your regular routine. Pilates helps to strengthen, stretch and rebalance the body as a whole. By having a well balanced body, this will reduce the wear and tear of the joints. While exercise may not get rid of the snap, crackle and pop, it can make it so those sounds don’t become painful. Know that periodically, you may have to change the exercises in your routine. Meaning, while one day a lunge may be painfree and pop- free, another day the body may not feel great with these movements. So it is advised to be ready to add or remove an exercise from your routine based upon how the body is feeling. But one important note, never stop moving. Lack of exercise can lead to further wear, tear and stress on the joints.
Here’s to celebrating the summer enjoying the “snap, crackle and pop” of fireworks and not the noises of the of your body.

ABS Pilates of Sunbury, Ohio offers private, semi-private and drop-in classes to get your body back on track. ABS Pilates serves central Ohio, Columbus, New Albany, Westerville, Gahanna and all surrounding areas. ABS Pilates is owned by Amanda B. Smith, a licensed physical therapist, certified McKenzie therapist, certified Pilates instructor and ACE certified group exercise instructor and health coach. Don’t hesitate to contact ABS Pilates today to get your health and wellness back on track!

Have a happy summer and don’t forget to move!

Amanda Smith - Licensed Physical Therapist, certified Pilates instructor, ACE certified Group Exercise Instructor, ACE certified Health Coach, Certified McKenzie Therapist. Ready to help you become stronger and healthier in a safe, fun and holistic manner.