Hey Hey What’s That Sound?
Odds are good if you have more than one gray hair, you have one or more joints that snaps, creaks, crackles, pops, clunks, crunches or grinds.
Some of these sounds are occasional and funny. Others can be regular and quite loud, startling pets and bystanders, waking up spouses/partners, and even frightening to children.
Unless accompanied by pain, most of them don’t mean anything other than you are alive and un-young. Of course, if there’s pain, see a medical provider. However, don’t be disappointed if they can reduce the pain, but not the noise.
As our bodies age, some of those noises never disappear because of permanent, irreversible changes to tissues in the joints. Maybe the anatomy has been altered by surgery or trauma. More often they are due to a combination of factors related to aging:
- All the connective tissue surrounding joints become stiffer due to elastin being replaced by collagen.
- Muscles surrounding joints lose their tone, which allows lax tendons to leave natural positions and drift and rub across bone.
- There’s a decline in the production of synovial fluid that lubricates the interface of bone surfaces.
- Natural wear and tear to the thin layer of protective cartilage on bone surfaces due to repetitive motion, like swinging a tennis racquet or pumping a bike. Once the layer is gone, bone grinds against unprotected bone, resulting in painful osteoarthritis.
Although regular exercise may not totally eliminate joint noises, it can help turn the volume down. There’s a saying, “Motion is lotion.” Movement itself disperses synovial fluid over bone surfaces. That’s why a thorough warm-up and exercises that require a wide range of motion are so important.
Joint noises can be further reduced by toning the muscles around the joints so complex bone structures, like shoulder and knees, are properly supported so they can function as designed. That’s why it’s so critical to balance strength of the large back muscles with chest muscles in front, thighs with hamstrings in the legs, hip flexors with hip extensors. as well as pay attention to the smaller muscles like those in the rotator cuff.
Remember one noise reducer that doesn’t require any exercise: Stay well-hydrated. Drink lots of water. Your body is over 70% water. Some cartilage is 85% water! When you are hydrated, your connective tissue softens and expands, slips and slides like it’s supposed to.
You’re functional. That’s what really matters.