Joint sounds and their meaning

by Dr. Mohini Rawat

by Dr. Mohini Rawat

President & Founder of Mohini Rawat Physical Therapy, PC

The joint is where the cartilage-covered ends of two bones meet. A small amount of joint fluid is contained in the capsule that surrounds our joints.



You may have experienced joint popping or clicking.  There is no need to worry about every joint sound. These joint sounds can be categorized as follows:


Joint sounds with no pain

Sometimes our joints make noise which has nothing to worry about. These sounds can be normal physiological sounds like when people like to pop their knuckles. This joint popping effect is also called “Tribonucleation” which results in bursting of tiny bubbles in the joint fluid. Once you pop the joint you must wait for 20 minutes to pop again.

Another example of painless joint popping is when soft tissue structures that surround the joint rub against the moving parts of the joint like snapping of ligament, tendons, hypermobile meniscus, catching of synovium etc.



Joint sounds with pain

There are times when the popping can be painful. This requires further investigation. Some of the sources of painful popping can be cartilage or meniscus injury, joint instability, inflamed tissue like pathological plica or pathological snapping syndromes.



Joint sounds due to injury

These joint sounds are more serious because these may be an indication of injury like ligament injury, tendon tear or meniscus tear. There is a clear association of these sounds with the injury mechanism like when someone injures their knee playing a sport and that injury was accompanied by a popping sound and followed by swelling and painful joint.


If joint sounds bother you or interfere with your day-to-day activities, you should seek consultation to find the root cause of the problem.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Receive our newsletter direct to your inbox to follow updates

Share the article

More from Our Blog