Condition: Clicking Joint

Clicking joints are often nothing to worry about but can sometimes be caused by an underlying condition requiring treatment.

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What are clicking joints?

Clicking joints, or crepitus, is when a cracking, popping, clicking or crunching sound is produced when moving or bending a joint. These noises can be very quiet or, in some cases, so loud that others nearby can also hear them.

While joint clicking is often nothing to worry about, it can sometimes cause pain and discomfort, which can be a sign of an underlying condition requiring treatment.

What are the symptoms of clicking joints?

As well as the sound made when bending the joints, you may experience pain or discomfort in the area that can feel like pinching, grinding or snapping.

It’s more common to experience joint clicking as you get older, and this most often occurs when kneeling (knees), extending the arms (elbows), reaching upwards (shoulders) and twisting (spine).

What causes clicking joints?

Several things can cause a joint to make a clicking sound, including:

  • Tendons moving across a bony prominence or joint

  • Bubbles or pockets of nitrogen gas in the joints popping under pressure

  • Two joints getting stuck on or rubbing over each other due to damaged cartilage as a result of wear and tear

In most cases, joint clicking is harmless. Still, if you are also experiencing pain or discomfort, this could be due to a condition that requires treatment, such as arthritis, tendonitis, patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee) or torn cartilage.

If you experience pain when moving your joints or are worried about any clicking, it’s essential to see an orthopaedic or sports medicine specialist as soon as you can so that you can receive prompt treatment should you need it.

How is the cause of clicking joints diagnosed?

The cause of clicking joints can only be identified if an underlying problem exists. If this is suspected, an orthopaedic or sports medicine specialist will likely recommend imaging scans in the form of an X-ray, CT or MRI scan, or ultrasound scan of the affected joint or joints.

Blood or antibody tests may also be needed to look for signs of infection and inflammation or autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, which could be causing your symptoms.

How can clicking joints be treated?

If the clicking in your joints is caused by an underlying condition, the treatment will focus on addressing that condition. Depending on the cause, treatment options can include braces or splints, physiotherapy, steroid injections, keyhole surgery to repair damaged cartilage and total joint replacement. At OneWelceck, our consultant orthopaedic or sports medicine specialists will discuss your options and ensure you receive the most effective treatment possible.

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Clicking Joint Specialists

We boast a truly integrated team of orthopaedic surgeons, sports medicine physicians, podiatric surgeons, rheumatology specialists, paid medicine consultants and hand therapy specialists. All of these services work together in one place, enabling us to give patients the best care possible.