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Crepitus: Characteristics, Causes & Treatment

Crepitus
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What Is Crepitus?

Crepitus is a medical term used to describe joint popping, crackling or clicking. You hear this sound because the air that found its way to your joints is moving.

The most common form of this condition is crepitus in knees. If your joints suffered a trauma such as fracturing a bone or hitting your knee, that might lead to crepitus. The good news is crepitus itself is harmless, but if you feel pain, you should consult your doctor.

Here are the areas where crepitation frequently appears:

  • Knee – Most people with this condition hear the popping or crackling sound from their knees. You may hear this when you bend or stretch your knee. It should be painless, but again, if you feel pain, make sure to visit your doctor.
  • Ankle – Crepitus in this area feels more like grinding. It may limit your range of motion and can present with pain, which may be a sign of osteoarthritis in ankles.
  • Lungs – If you have a respiratory disease, such as pneumonia, bronchitis or asthma, it may cause crepitus in the lungs.
  • Neck – You’ve surely heard your neck cracking occasionally, and this shouldn’t be anything to worry about unless you feel an abnormal amount of pain. In that case, you should consult a doctor.

Crepitus Characteristics

The symptoms may vary depending on which area of your body has been hit by crepitus. Here are some of the most frequent symptoms of this condition:

Knee Cracking or Popping

If you want to understand why you hear knee cracking sounds, it is key to understand the structure of the knee. Think of it as a big hinge that connects tibia and fibula (lower leg bones) and femur (thighbone). The kneecap protects the joint from injuries while cartilage reduces friction in the area where femur and tibia meet. The synovial fluid is in charge of lubricating the joint.

As time passes, air and gas may appear in the areas around your joint. The result is that tiny bubbles show in the synovium, the membrane that lines the inner joint. If you bend or stretch your knee, those air bubbles may burst, and that is what leads to popping. The good news is you shouldn’t worry about it as long as it is painless.

However, as a result of wear and tear of the cartilage, it may lead to the physical grating with the bone, which produces the sound. If pain accompanies the cracking, you should visit a doctor as it may be a risk for arthritis (x).

Stiffness in the Knee

You may feel knee joint stiffness while walking, which can also be a result of general wear and tear of the joints and their improper lubrication. The stiffness may also occur after knee surgery, such as arthroscopy or ACL reconstruction (x).

Many people complain that they felt knee stiffness in the morning when they wake up, or when they haven’t been active for a while. Natural remedies and supplements that can lubricate your joint may help to improve mobility. You can also try gentle exercises and stretching to reduce stiffness.

Pain While Walking

Pain while walking, as well as pain while bending or stretching the knee, could be a sign that you have crepitus (x). As we mentioned, crepitus itself is painless, but if you do feel pain while walking, it is best to consult a doctor as you may have something more. They can identify its underlying cause and will tell you the best way to eliminate or reduce the pain.

Other Symptoms

When it comes to crepitus manifesting in your knees, the list of symptoms also includes soreness, tenderness and swelling. These may be a result of an injury or trauma, but also general wear and tear. Similar symptoms, including limited range of motion, may appear if you have crepitation of the ankle or the neck.

When it comes to lungs, if you hear bubbles popping, you may experience heightened fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, swelling in the extremities, wheezing and/or fever.

Crepitus Symptoms

Causes of Crepitus

If you have experienced symptoms of crepitus but don’t know what caused it, these conditions may be responsible:

Air Bubbles

Scientists refer to this as the vacuum phenomenon (x). If you hear a cracking or popping sound when you stretch or bend your knee, air bubbles may be causing that sound. As you make that move, the air goes into the area around your knee and causes bubbles to form in the synovial fluid.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)

Anterior knee pain that manifests when you overuse the patellofemoral region may lead to PFPS. It is challenging to diagnose because no consensus has been achieved about factors or etiology of this syndrome (x). You might know this condition under the name the “runner’s knee.” It occurs when you put more pressure on the area between the femur and the kneecap than your joints can handle. As a result, the cartilage wears away and softens. It can be caused by intense exercise, but also trauma.

Damage to the Knee

If your joints suffered a trauma, such as hitting something or having any other sort of an accident, it may damage your knee. When managing soft tissue damage, you might require medical attention and physiotherapy, especially if the pain you feel is significant or you experience swelling (x).

Osteoarthritis

Scientists confirm that crepitus frequently occurs as the clinical feature of osteoarthritis in the knees (x). If knee popping causes pain, it can be one of the earliest indications of OA. Crepitus itself doesn’t affect knee strength, but osteoarthritis can lead to limited mobility (x).

Other Causes

A surgery that involves knee replacement (total knee arthroplasty) may be among the causes of crepitus. There are some preventive measures to take, but the problem should disappear as you get accustomed to your new knee (x). Crepitus may also be a sign of arthrofibrosis (x). In regard to crackles in the lungs, they may be caused by collapsing alveoli or even smoking.

Crepitus Remedies and Supplements

Are you looking for supplements that can help you to prevent or deal with crepitus? These health products can play an important role in crepitus treatment.

Boswellia Serrata

The resins of Boswellia obtained from its tree have anti-inflammatory properties. That is why this plant extract is frequently used in osteoarthritis treatment to reduce inflammation and provide pain alleviation (x). Thanks to its positive effects, Boswellia can help to ease joint pain, reduce swelling and promote overall quality of life.

Boswellia serrata extract powder contains a rich quantity of boswellic acids (at least 65 percent). Each serving provides 450 mg of this gum resin extract. Since it is a powder, you will need a milligram scale to ensure accurate measurement. The recommended dosage is once or twice per day unless your physician recommends otherwise. The supplement doesn’t contain sugar, gluten, dairy, soy or other additives.

Turmeric

Nutritionists and other experts consider turmeric to be a superfood because it has multiple positive effects on your overall health. Apart from the ability to help deal with extra pounds and get your cholesterol levels normal, this plant is also a potent anti-inflammatory ingredient. On top of that, it is quite effective in providing pain relief, especially in the long run.

To maximize the effects of turmeric, you should always aim to use a supplement that has a high concentration of this plant. In this product, you will receive 1,000 mg of curcumin/turmeric extract powder per serving. The formula is standardized to contain at least 950 mg (95 percent) of curcuminoids per serving.

Curcuminoids are the reason turmeric is so efficient in boosting joint and overall health (x). The recommended dosage is up to 1,000 mg per day, which is a bit less than a ½ teaspoon (use a milligram scale for precise measuring).

Collagen

You may have already used collagen in skin care products as it can keep your skin looking young. The same goes for your joints as collagen can do a great job in lubricating them (x). That may lead to reduced stiffness and increased mobility and provide pain relief. The fact that your joints are properly lubricated will also decrease or eliminate crepitus.

One of the best options on the market is the hydrolyzed collagen powder. Pork is the source of this ingredient, and it mixes amino acids like arginine, alanine, hydroxyproline, glutamic acid and glycine. Thanks to that, it promotes long-term joint health and supports optimal mobility and motion range. Furthermore, it will be beneficial for your skin health, too.

A single serving should contain 2,500 mg of this powder, which is roughly a tablespoon. Take it two to four times every day, or consult a physician to get detailed instructions for your particular health situation.

Chondroitin Sulfate

Chondroitin sulfate is a vital component that can maintain your joint health and prevent their degeneration. It can help in repairing cartilage and helps to heal wounds. The recommended dosage is 1,200 to 1,500 mg per day, and it is usually combined with glucosamine.

Calcium Gluconate

Strong bones may play an essential role in joint health and protect you from crepitus and pain. Calcium gluconate powder is a great choice as it is a mixture of gluconic acid and calcium, and it has a high level of absorption because it is water-soluble. The FDA suggests that you should take 1,000 mg per serving up to two times a day.

Black Garlic

Like turmeric, black garlic is another superfood and can have an overall positive effect on your health. That includes promoting bone and joint health, providing an anti-inflammatory effect and protecting your joints from deterioration. The recommended dosage is 800 mg every day, and you can take it in a single dosage.

Cat’s Claw

Cat’s claw extract can provide pain relief and help reduce inflammation related to arthritis. Aside from supporting healthy joints, it also benefits respiratory health. The recommended dosage is 500 mg once or twice per day.

The Bottom Line

Crepitus may appear in ankles, neck and lungs, but it most frequently occurs in knees. The condition itself is painless, but you should carefully assess the symptoms as they may be a sign of an underlying disease, especially if crepitus is accompanied by pain. You can consider using remedies or supplements to lubricate and improve joint health to deal with this condition. If you have any questions, be sure to consult a doctor.

By: Aneeca Younas

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Rita Magallona


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