If you’ve been to a yoga or Pilates class recently, you may well have noticed your or others bodies making some pretty odd popping noises when you move, especially the first time. Maybe you get them in simple daily life tasks too? Comical as they can be, have you ever wondered why your joints are doing that? Or if it’s even safe?
One common theory is that when a joint is pushed out of it’s normal range, which let’s face it is pretty common in yoga (!), various gasses are pushed and escape from synovial fluid capsules between the joints. Synovial fluid is stimulated each time we move, which is what helps to lubricate our joints and help them move smoothly against each other.
The Harvard Health Publishing states that the sound we hear is simply bubbles of air that burst within the synovial fluid between the joints. When you move and effectively pull bones away from each other, you create a pressure on trapped air that has nowhere to go and so simply pops, much like a bubble.
Sometimes, if arthritic changes have already happened within a joint (commonplace the older we get), the way a tendon can move across a joint can create a the popping sound too.
We are still left scratching our heads as to the exact answer, because research doesn’t give us definitive facts. Some physical therapists believe that if joints are aligned properly and are healthy, there shouldn’t be any sound coming from them at all. The reason being that the connective tissue (fascia) and muscles should pad out the joint sufficiently. A snapping or popping sound could be the snapping of a joint against a tendon or muscle.
The trick is to assess how frequently you’re hearing these noises and if there are any differences between those noises. For example, a grinding sound in the knees should be investigated, as often this can mean that the cartilage (that acts like a buffer between joints) has worn away. In this case you’d need to work on strengthening the supporting muscles around the joints to stop symptoms becoming worse. A physiotherapist can advise you on what to do.
If there is any pain or swelling that accompanies movement, again treat as a warning signal from your body. If the snapping sound always happens in the same place, particularly if you have pain, the likelihood is it won’t go away on it’s own and you need proper guidance about what to do next.
A physical therapist or doctor can identify what’s wrong and give you the correct procedure. If resting and ice is what you need then they’ll be able to tell you that, but importantly if you need specific exercises or vitally to stop doing something habitually, you’ll be doing the right thing for your body and condition. Understanding your alignment and correcting where necessary will definitely help to reduce or stop the abnormal posture.
For the record, (and for those teenage sons), it’s definitely not a good idea to repeatedly try to crack your knuckles to induce the popping sound, because you’ll likely end up creating instability in the joint through induced hypermobility. Musculature surrounding the joint can tighten, which actually creates the urge to keep doing it!
The good news is that occasional noises that aren’t painful at all are totally normal and show that you’re taking your body outside of it’s normal range of motion, which is actually a good things to do! Remember, joints like moving and in particular, taking your joints through their full ability is healthy. Yoga is a wonderful way to move your joints whilst building strength in the supporting muscles. Flexibility and strength are equally as important and we definitely encourage both here at Mary Ann Weeks Aveda Guildford Studio.
Do pop down for a class sometime with our awesome Yoga & Pilates teachers, they are always delighted to see you and love to share their craft.