Crepitus is when there is a sensation or noise when you move a joint which can be described as clicking, cracking, creaking, crunching, grating or popping.

Summary introduction

Crepitus is more common as you get older, although you can experience it at any age.

Your joints can crack or pop from time to time so, in most cases, it’s nothing to be worried about. However, if you have pain or discomfort as well, it could be a sign that you have an underlying medical condition.

Causes of crepitus

There are many causes including:

  • Bubbles of air popping inside your joint – this is the noise produced if you crack your knuckles and is painless
  • Your bones rubbing against each other, usually caused by arthritis – often a chronic (long-term) pain or discomfort
  • Snapping of tendons or ligaments over the bony surfaces of your joint which can sometimes be painful

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

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Conditions related to crepitus

Crepitus is a symptom of these common conditions:

  • Osteoarthritis – due to your bones rubbing against each other because cartilage is damaged – though not everyone with arthritis will experience crepitus
  • Tendonitis – injury and inflammation of a tendon, such as a tennis elbow
  • An injury can cause crepitus in the knee, such as a meniscal tear – a common sports injury

Getting a diagnosis for crepitus

If you're experiencing crepitus with pain, swelling or discomfort, you should see your GP.

Your GP will perform a physical examination of your joint. They may refer you for other tests and scans to investigate further or to confirm a diagnosis, such as:

Treatments for crepitus

In most cases, you won’t need to have treatment for crepitus. However, if you have other symptoms that are affecting your everyday life, your doctor might recommend:

  • Medication to treat the underlying problem – such as treatment for arthritis or inflammation
  • Arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) to investigate your joint or repair damage
  • Joint replacement (such as hip or knee replacement) in severe cases or when your joint is badly damaged