One of the most common questions asked during a session is, “why are my joints making noise? What does it mean?” There are a variety of “sounds” that our joints make for many possible causes. It is common to have “noise” in your joint and does not necessarily mean there is an injury.  For example, I get asked all the time if, “cracking my knuckles is doing damage to my fingers?”. There is a long-standing myth that “cracking your knuckles” will cause arthritis to form; this is simply not true. The sound you hear from cracking your knuckles is the compression of nitrogen bubbles that are naturally formed in the joint spaces. A “cracking sound is just one of the many “noises” our joints make, the following chart can help you determine what could be the cause of your “joint noise.”

why are my joints making noise

Most “joint noise” comes and goes and is often pain-free and free of swelling, however when swelling or pain occurs it is good to have the joint evaluated. A physical or occupational therapist is able to help determine the best solution to remedy the noise, and decrease pain, and/or swelling. For example, if you feel snapping while doing exercises, you likely need to focus on stretching the muscles around the joint. Overall, it is essential to remember that motion and movement help decrease “noisy joints.” So, the next time you wake up and stretch your arms out and hear a “cracking” in your shoulders, do not fear; try a couple of stretches to get your joints moving and loosened up.

Hopefully, this explains why your joints are making noise better and helps you to understand that not all noises are bad noises.


Adrienne Loukopoulos graduated from St. Norbert College with a bachelors of science with a biomedical concentration. She then pursued Occupational Therapy at Mount Mary University where she graduated with a Master’s in Occupational Therapy.