In orthopedic medicine and sports medicine, crepitus describes a popping, clicking or crackling sound in a joint. Joint popping sounds may mean that air is moving in the joint, which is usually harmless.
People most often notice crepitus in their knees, but it can also happen in other joints like the shoulder, elbow or neck.
Crepitus with pain can be a sign of wear and tear or injury. If crepitus is painful, you should consult a doctor.
At Aurora Health Care, we offer a range of treatment options for crepitus – from noninvasive therapies like bracing to the latest in minimally invasive surgical techniques.
Joint problems are very common, especially as you get older. The team at Aurora Health Care has advanced expertise in pinpointing the cause of crepitus and joint pain so that you can move freely again.
As one of Wisconsin’s largest regional health care systems, we offer:
Crepitus, or joint sounds, can be a normal part of movement. Many people experience popping joints, especially as they get older. You may notice:
Often, crepitus is harmless. It happens when air seeps into the soft tissues around the joint (such as the kneecap). When you bend the joint, the air bubbles burst, and you hear a cracking sound.
While most crepitus is harmless, some forms of crepitus signal a problem. If the popping or crunching sound comes with pain, you should see a doctor to evaluate the cause.
Causes of painful joint popping may include:
At your appointment, we’ll examine the area that’s causing you pain. We’ll also ask about your symptoms and recent activity, including how the joint feels during different movements.
If we suspect PFS is causing knee popping and pain, we may ask about your exercise routine. You can help by describing the pain and letting us know about any recent changes in your activity.
A doctor can usually diagnose PFS from an office examination, but to be sure about the cause of crepitus, we usually order an X-ray or other imaging to visualize the inside of the joint.
Learn more about orthopedic diagnosis.
Many causes of joint popping and cracking improve with home remedies, like taking anti-inflammatory medications or using the RICE method (rest, ice, compression and elevation). Other causes might require a doctor’s help.
Your doctor will talk with you about possible treatments, including:
Some causes of crepitus might require surgical treatment. We’ll advise you on the least invasive treatment to relieve joint pain and minimize future damage. You might consider: