Many people experience noises from their joints.

joint noises They explain to me that they hear “little noises” when they turn their head, for example. It is most noticeable in the upper joints of the neck because these structures are closer to our ears. If we had ears in the small of our backs, we would hear noises down there too! Some people reading this blog may not even know what I am talking about but others do.

There are several descriptors people use to explain joint noises: click, clunk, squish, grind, swoosh, pop, crack, sandpapery…just to name a few. If you can believe or not, science has lumped all these descriptors into one category called crepitus. This is defined by: Crepitus /ˈkrɛpɪtəs/ is a medical term to describe the grating, crackling or popping sounds and sensations experienced under the skin and joints or a crackling sensation due to the presence of air in the subcutaneous tissue. This is based on some pretty weak science.


Sounds of tissue and inventions

In the early 1800’s,the stethoscope was invented and since the dawn of this, we have made leaps and bounds regarding the sounds of the heart and what they mean. It would seem foolish to think that all the sounds are defined by the same term, like joint sounds are. If you want to have a look at all that has been figured regarding heart sounds, have a click here. My question is why are we so behind in understanding joint sounds. Do we need to invent a stethoscope for the joints?


What am I doing about it?

Many of you know that a few years back I had several projects on the go. One of the projects was to identify the precise location of the sound associated with a joint “pop”. This was at a same time when I was publishing three papers so the idea was put on the back burner.

But now, since the development of my recent popping spine model (“Fryer Cracker” is still the leading name for it) more light has come in the understanding of the classic “pop”. In 2007 I thought it was the capsule of the joint but now I believe it is something else. You can read more about it here as I write for Dynamic Disc Designs Corp. too.

I presented the idea to study the precise sound generator in 2007 to Ezra Kwok. At the time he was the director of the biomedical engineering department at UBC. He also works as a Medical Doctor. At a luncheon he invited me to, I asked him, “what do you tell your patients when they report that their joints make noise?” He responded with “it’s crepitus”. I then asked him, “what is that?” He gave a long stare and then encouraged me to present a poster at a technology conference. And so I did with a preliminary study in mind. We nearly had a PhD student take on my research proposal but he ( the student) changed his mind at the last minute. Lack of funding was at the crux of the issue.

Now it is 2013 and I am ready to pursue and debunk the myth (I hope) that the noise is coming from a gas bubble. I don’t believe it. There is no doubt that a gas bubble forms in the process of a cavitation. But I do not think it is the structure that is making the noise. When I get this study done, I hope that it will begin the understanding of joint sounds more accurately.

In the end, I hope we can be better diagnosticians and therapists for joint related problems. JF