What those creaking joints really mean

5 October 2010

Should you be concerned if your elbow clicks or hip grates?

Painless noise in or around a joint is nothing to worry about — but when the noise is persistent and there is pain accompanying then it, ­potentially, becomes significant,’ says Peter Brownson, an orthopaedic ­shoulder and elbow ­specialist at The Bone and Joint Centre at Spire Liverpool Hospital.

Each joint is held together by a complicated array of ligaments, ­tendons and muscles — and the noise each makes depends on how this is arranged. Here, we help you decipher those snaps, crackles and pops.


Any clicking sounds in the shoulder joint should be interpreted according to your age, says
Mr Brownson. In the under-35s, shoulder noises can be a sign of joint ­instability - particularly if you have loose or double-jointed shoulders.

'Moving the joint causes the ball part of the arm bone to partially come out of the shoulder socket or fully dislocate,’ he explains. ‘This usually causes a loud ­popping or clunking noise when moving the shoulder'.

This is often the result of an injury to the shoulder muscles and, with physiotherapy, the vast majority of cases will be corrected in four months. If you are aged from 35 to 60, clicking and ­grating ­accompanied by pain - especially when you reach over your head or behind your back - could mean you have impingement syndrome.

Here the tendons around the shoulder have become inflamed, partly because of degeneration from middle age onwards. This can be successfully treated in the early stages with physiotherapy. In later stages, a steroid injection can reduce inflammation - but severe cases need ­keyhole surgery. Those older than 60 are more likely to hear and feel a painful ­grating sensation in the shoulder with all shoulder movement.

'This is often caused by arthritis and requires an X-ray to determine the exact cause and extent of the condition,' says Mr Brownson. Racquet sports athletes and ­contact sportsmen, such as foot­ballers, often complain of a clicking in the shoulder with pain, causing reduced performance. This could be superior labrum anterior to post­erior lesions (SLAP), where the biceps tendon partially detaches as a result of repetitive use.

'Unfortunately the only treatment is keyhole surgery,' says Mr Brownson.

Visit the Daily Mail website to read more online about this article which follows on to include analysis of the elbow, hand/wrist, hips, ankles, knees, toes and jaw.

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Bone and Joint Centre

Bone and Joint Centre, Liverpool
Our consortium of consultant orthopaedic surgeons are supported by a team of clinical professionals experienced in orthopaedic treatment. Together they provide tailored and holistic care of the highest standards to all patients. Supporting our Bone and Joint Centre is Spire Liverpool Hospital’s Physiotherapy team which offers a dynamic service specialising in musculo-skeletal conditions, and orthopaedic rehabilitation programmes.

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Article Published in Mail Online

Article Published in Mail Online:
by Matthew Barbour, 28th September 2010

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