Various joints may click when moved a certain way, and treatment may or may not be necessary.
What Causes Clicking?
Creaking, popping, and clicking are all ways to describe the sounds that joints can make. When these noises are accompanied by pain, there may be a problem. Various body parts can be affected, including the shoulders, elbows, hands, wrists, hips, ankles, knees, toes, and jaw. Age is also a factor in determining if the clicking is a problem.1
Upper Body Clicking
In people under age 35, the noises in the shoulder could be due to a joint instability. Physiotherapy could treat that injury in a few months. For older people, the injury could be an impingement, due to aging and inflammation. This is especially true if the clicking includes pain. Treatment would also involve physiotherapy, and possibly steroid injections or keyhole surgery. Arthritis may also be an underlying cause. People most at risk of these shoulder pains are those who engage in particular repetitive use sports. They could have SLAP (superior labrum anterior to posterior lesions). Elbow clicking may be caused by a loose piece of cartilage or bone in the joint, which can calcify and make the joint lock up. The ulnar nerve can end up bruised, and that can cause a tingling in the pinky and ring fingers. It may also require an operation. Cracking the knuckles doesn’t cause arthritis. The cracking sound is from stretching protective fluid in the joints and bubbles of natural gases become released. If there is creaking at the thumb’s base and pain, it could be arthritis, and steroid injections or surgery may be needed.2
Lower Body Clicking
The hip can have a snapping noise, which generally comes when the “thick band of…tissue that supports the leg muscles catches on the outside of the thigh bone”. Painless noise may only require stretching exercises; however, pain might be a labral tissue tear, which could signal the onset of arthritis. A tear of the Achilles tendon is loud, due to its high tension. Surgery may be required to treat this. A “jerking injury”, such as one from a fall, may lead to damaged tendons and a snapping sound every time the ankle moves. Surgery may be the only option. Sometimes the popping sound is just a sprain, and the ankle would swell up after being twisted. Strains are noiseless. RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) is typical for treatment of strains and sprains. Knees could make noises just from carrying the body’s weight. They may also click from torn cartilage or arthritis. Knee replacement surgery may be necessary. Morton’s neuroma may cause the toes to click. Tight shoes are the culprit there, and other treatments may involve orthotics or steroid injections.3
In order to avoid injury, treat existing conditions, and prevent future surgery and medical interventions, chiropractic care may be sought. Chiropractors aim to resolve the underlying cause of the clicking or pain through conservative treatments. Even patients with SLAP lesions can be treated by chiropractic stretches and exercises. Chiropractors can help strengthen the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers, for example, by helping the patient with closed-chain and open-chain exercises, stretching, and fascial manipulation.4 Treatment from chiropractors can range from adjustments to dietary suggestions and orthotic recommendations. Patients with arthritis can also benefit from chiropractic assistance with, and suggestions for, range-of-motion, strengthening, and aerobic exercises. Chiropractors may recommend certain supplements and foods, such as fatty acid supplements, deep sea fish, turmeric, ginger, or even a low-allergen or vegetarian diet. They can help patients regain strength and flexibility, while reducing inflammation.5