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Is it bad to have creaking joints?

“My knee has started creaking when I climb stairs”

“My ankle clicks when I move it in circles”

“My back clicks when I roll over in bed”

“Is it bad? Am I doing damage?”

I get asked this all the time by patients!

Most of the time this is harmless and nothing to worry about. When you are young you have perfectly smooth and healthy joints and there is no friction noise when you move. Unfortunately, as we age our joints start to become a little more dehydrated, the cartilage on the end of the bones can start to thin a little and small patches of wear and tear can occur in that cartilage. As we move we can start to hear friction noises occurring in our joints such as a grinding sensation on the kneecap or clicking of joints.

Are my clicking joints a sign of arthritis? 

If you were to have an x-ray on that noisy joint you might be told you have early-stage arthritis. This might sound scary, however it’s perfectly normal to have this in some of our joints and in most people it’s completely asymptomatic. In other people it can manifest as a dull ache in a particular joint and if the joint becomes irritated it can become swollen and more painful. The joints most affected are the knee, the hip and the shoulder.

There are various things that you can do to preserve the health of your joints, however this might not alter the friction noises that you hear from the joint, but it can settle any discomfort and help to support the health and longevity of your joints.

We know one of the things that can affect joint health is being overweight or obese. This adds additional mechanical load through your joints and simply aiming to get your BMI down to as close to or under 25 is advisable.

Excess body fat is not just an inert substance that sits on your love handles and tummy adding additional load to your body, it is a metabolic tissue that releases a host of chemicals including inflammatory cytokines. These inflammatory cytokines also accelerate cartilage breakdown. Therefore, reducing inflammation in your body is recommended and this can be achieved somewhat through diet for example reducing (but not eliminating) meat and dairy consumption whilst increasing fish consumption, eating a host of fruits and vegetables and reducing processed and fried foods is a good place to start.
Eating sulphurous foods such as eggs, onions, leaks, garlic, cabbage, broccoli or Brussels sprouts can also help. Joint cartilage contains sulphur and eating foods that contain sulphur as well as maintaining good hydration can support joint health. In fact, common joint health supplements include glucosamine sulphate, chondroitin sulphate and hyaluronic acid.

Exercise is fantastic for fitness, weight management and joint health. However, it is advisable to combine both impact and non-impact exercise. For example, for most people running is fine but some people also need to mix this up with non-impact exercise such as swimming and cycling. Weight training and resistance exercises as well as Pilates and yoga are also good ways of maintaining muscle strength around joints and supporting joint health.

Treatment for knee arthritis in Wandsworth

For those of you that are diagnosed with mild to moderate arthritis in a particular joint, injection therapy can be very useful. If you have a particularly swollen and painful joint an injection with steroid and hyaluronic acid can help bring down the inflammation and swelling and reduce the joint pain. An ultrasound guided steroid injection into the knee can be very useful. A product called Cingal is approved for joint injections that can provide 6 to 12 months of relief. For those who have a non-swollen but irritable joint, PRP or a combination of PRP and hyaluronic acid injections are recommended. The PRP can stimulate tissue repair inside the joint and hyaluronic acid acts as a joint lubricant providing 6 to 12 months of comfort.

If you have a creaky irritable joint and want to know more about how you can manage it through exercise, nutrition or injection therapy please get in touch.

Are your joints starting to creak

About Wandsworth Physiotherapy

infoAt Wandsworth Physiotherapy and Osteopathy we are focused on getting you out of pain and back to what you love doing. Whether it's playing with your kids or simply being able to sit on the train comfortably; whether it's being able to get back into the gym class or to run 5k again; whether it's to banish the Tena Lady or being able to lift your child without pain our expert physiotherapists and osteopaths are here to help.