What Is Crepitus in Rheumatoid Arthritis / Disease? | Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior

What Is Crepitus in Rheumatoid Arthritis / Disease?

Crepitus is a sound-word – like crash or splash

rice krispiesCrepitus is one of those words I don’t think I used before being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (like discrepancy). Crepitus is a general term for noise in the body like the grating, popping, or cracking sounds produced by joints or supporting tissues or the crunching sound in the lungs that can occur with emphysema. I never liked the word crepitus because it sounded a bit gross to me – like creepy. But crepitus actually comes from the Latin word for “creaking”. So the root word “crepit” may have originated as a word to imitate a sound, or onomatopoeia, like purr or zap.

What is crepitus?

Crepitus is often said to be the sound of two surfaces rubbing together, or sometimes it’s explained as the sound of trapped air. Most likely, there are multiple causes for the variety of sounds joints can make. Crepitus can be loud or quiet in different people. Even in my own joints, I’ve noticed a variety of noises like grinding, snapping, and clicking – all different from the normal “popping” I heard sometimes before my Rheumatoid diagnosis. In established Rheumatoid disease, crepitus may be caused by rough joint structures rubbing together because of deterioration. Or in early disease, it may be caused by inflammation of a tendon or tendon sheath.

The medical dictionary at Medicine Net implies that crepitus can sometimes be felt as much as heard: “crackling, crinkly, or grating feeling or sound under the skin, around the lungs, or in the joints,” and most Rheumatoid patients probably recognize the feeling. The sound is usually accompanied by a physical sensation of movement beneath the skin, but not always. Sometimes, crepitus is accompanied by pain, but not always.

The annoying sound of crepitus: Did you hear that?

snap, crackle, popI’ll never forget the surprising snapping that preceded stiffness, weakness, and pain in every joint during the months of 2006 when Rheumatoid disease spread through my body like two long symmetrical rows of dominoes. Out of the blue one day the DIP joints of both forefingers began to snap. Within a couple of days, they were both too inflamed to move. Then the elbows cracked; then something else…

Nowadays, the most bothersome crepitus is in my head. No, I’m not imagining it. Technically, the sound is in my spine as it feels like the base of my skull snaps every few minutes. Too often, I ask, “Did you hear that?” Usually, it doesn’t hurt like the grinding in my shoulders. It’s just unsettling to feel something snap so deep inside the neck.

Do your joints grind, click, snap, crackle, or pop?

What do you feel when your joints make noise?

Recommended reading

Kelly O'Neill Young

Kelly O'Neill (formerly Kelly Young) has worked over 10 years as an advocate helping patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the author of the best-selling book Rheumatoid Arthritis Unmasked: 10 Dangers of Rheumatoid Disease. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Through her writing and speaking, she builds a more accurate awareness of rheumatoid disease (RD) aka rheumatoid arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creates ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and brings recognition and visibility to the RA patient journey. In addition to RA Warrior, she writes periodically for newsletters, magazines, and websites. There are over 60,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook page. You can also connect with Kelly by on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is a mother of five, longtime home-schooler, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. She has lived over thirteen years with unrelenting RD. See also https:/rawarrior.com/kelly-young-press/

56 thoughts on “What Is Crepitus in Rheumatoid Arthritis / Disease?

  • July 29, 2013 at 5:49 am
    Permalink

    I didn’t know there was a name for those scary sounds. Mostly mine are in my shoulders (I’m having my first shoulder replacement in Sept.) There is is the sound of bones knocking together. But I agree the sounds in my neck really scare me. EVery little turn of my head and it sounds like the percussion section in a band. Makes me worry that I have spinal instability in my cervical spine.

    Good to know that I am not the only one!

    Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 9:12 am
    Permalink

    I have cracking & grinding sounds in my knees every time I walk up stairs. And in my hips when I get in & out of the bed. Sometimes with & without pain.

    Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 9:20 am
    Permalink

    I have tried describing the sound my knees make to the dr – it sounds like the legs of Barbie as they were bent.

    Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 9:35 am
    Permalink

    I have cracking and popping in the base of my neck and sometimes it’s so loud it scares me. My neck is always sore but even more so when it’s making noise. My thumb on my right hand clicks and pops. It feels like something is catching in there and I’ve noticed more stiffness. My knees do this grinding thing.

    Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 10:03 am
    Permalink

    I’ve had crepitus in my knees since I was a teenager so I thought it was just a fact of life that some joints made noise. Surprisingly my knees are still pretty functional a lifetime later.
    However I can tell that the crepitus in the neck is the sign of a problem. Along with the noises I get pain in the neck and shoulder and also in the back of my scalp. My scalp gets that pins and needles feeling quite often.

    If you were to sit beside me and we had a long talk it would make my neck sore while we talked and tomorrow as well. My neck makes a symphony of sounds – grinding, popping,crackling. It’s like Looney Tunes and I am sure this is happening because of the RA

    Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 10:45 am
    Permalink

    Oh, yes. I feel (hear) that a lot in both my neck and my head. I thought I was crazy because nobody else hears it. It’s good to hear from you again!

    Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 10:51 am
    Permalink

    Ah, creptus. I know it well. It is the soundtrack of my days… I had a day in every one of my joints over the years and sometimes it’s just noise, sometimes it hurts rather a lot. I think the one from your neck is a most alarming. You can somehow get used to other bits of you making those funny sounds, but when it’s reverberates inside your head, it hits the instinctive panic button every time.

    Reply
    • August 1, 2013 at 2:10 pm
      Permalink

      yes, inside the head, it’s more disconcerting. all the rest is ignored unless we laugh at it. looking at 30 comments, I’m once again wondering how some docs can say it doesn’t exist/ matter.

      Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 11:24 am
    Permalink

    Root word “crepit” is also part of “decrepit”, which describes me to a T anymore! lol

    Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 11:40 am
    Permalink

    Kelly, SoooOOooo glad to see you posting again. We’ve missed you. Thanks for this informative post.

    Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 11:54 am
    Permalink

    The pictures of the cereal made me laugh.. I have a friend who is very aware of all the crunching that my knees do. After a day where I could barely get around, she delivered a tray of freshly made Rice Krispy Treats. She tells me, “Figured you should enjoy some real snap, crackle, pop!” It was great! I think we should all have at least one friend like that! 🙂

    Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm
    Permalink

    I definitely noticed this happening around the time my RA symptoms began last year and I usually hear snapping / cracking sounds when I move my wrists, even if I make a slight movement. As you say, sometimes it hurts and sometimes it doesn’t. Fun!

    Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 12:35 pm
    Permalink

    You are awesome Kelly!

    Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 5:08 pm
    Permalink

    Welcome back……Now I know a good word for scrabble…..yes, I experience crepitus in various parts of my body!

    Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 5:19 pm
    Permalink

    Husband & I just talked about this last night when getting into bed he heard my hands which no longer pop but do grind, as well as my knees. Also I can no longer snap my fingers at our dogs like I used to do nor cross my fingers.

    Reply
    • August 1, 2013 at 2:16 pm
      Permalink

      yep!! snapping my fingers is NOT going to happen again. Even if I thought I could, I probably wouldn’t do it because I’d cringe at the pain.

      Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 6:00 pm
    Permalink

    I didn’t know it had a name, but it started years ago in my knees hips &
    Ankles. I haven’t been able to sneak anywhere …well ever! Its about the
    Only visible (actually audible) about this disease.

    Reply
    • August 1, 2013 at 2:15 pm
      Permalink

      2 great points Robyn. We can’t ever be spies! And the point about hearing our “invisible” symptoms!!

      Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 6:52 pm
    Permalink

    I have the same unsettling feeling in my neck as well, Kelly… glad to know I’m not alone! I’ve read so much about RA affecting the neck, but know so few RAers that have involvement there. Glad to know it’s more than likely a symptom of what I already have instead of something else new creeping up on me. 🙂

    Reply
    • July 30, 2013 at 3:32 pm
      Permalink

      Kristina,

      A lot of RAers have this symptom/condition. It is kind of scary to think you alone are experiencing it. I think that’s why I love this blog! I have learned so much and realize that a lot of others are in the same boat. No that I wish this on anyone, but it is so good to know there is a community who truly understands this disease and can offer so much support!

      Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 7:14 pm
    Permalink

    It makes me feel normal. Thank you.

    Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 7:17 pm
    Permalink

    How timely. I visited with my RA doc today and was happy to report to him that I was stretching my enbrel injections to every other week from every week. He was excited about that. Then I told him I tried going every other day on my 100mg Celebrex, but on the days I skipped, my joints got “crunchy.” Now I have the correct word for it!! Thanks so much.

    Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 10:28 pm
    Permalink

    So glad to know I’m not alone with this symphony of noises mostly in my neck! Although my hips and wrists and shoulders also make the same noises. I have described it as cellophane being crinkled up. I hate the snapping feeling that goes from my neck up the back of my head!

    Reply
  • July 29, 2013 at 11:33 pm
    Permalink

    I didn’t know there was a noise for the sounds! I’ve just always called them Rice Krispy sounds, or Snap, Crackle, and Pop. It was quite scary 6 months ago when my neck, a previously uninvolved area, starting making lots of Rice Krispy noises when I moved it side to side. I have had these noises in other joints, but the neck noises echo in my head so loudly! I started a new biologic 8 weeks ago, and the sounds have mostly stopped. But I’m sure at some point the snap, crackle, and pop will be back in my neck, but for now, I have a reprieve.

    Reply
  • July 30, 2013 at 12:54 am
    Permalink

    Kelly, glad to see you back, had missed your posts. Onomatopoeia with crepitus, yes, and rice krispies have always come to mind. I have it in knees mostly, but some days in neck and in jaw.

    Reply
  • July 30, 2013 at 2:03 am
    Permalink

    I had a doc tell me that some people just “pop” but the noises that my body makes is way more than just a “pop”. Nice to know that others out in the interwebs experience it too.
    Does anyone experience occasionally stiffness and pain before the creaking and cracking? The hips are the worst because the feeling reverberates through my entire body but my ankles are constantly cracking (sometimes pain precedes and other times it’s out of the blue).

    Reply
    • August 1, 2013 at 2:28 pm
      Permalink

      I’ve heard docs say things like that too. It’s true that noises are “normal” for some people. But, there is an obvious key point here that docs miss if they dismiss crepitus: the key question is HAS THERE BEEN A CHANGE? If a person’s joints never made noise for 3 or 4 decades, and then suddenly there are noises accompanied by pain or stiffness or weakness or redness, that sounds like a meaningful symptom.
      Anyone who’s reading should look at how some researchers and clinicians do consider crepitus a symptom> http://www.rawarrior.com/sternoclavicular-joint-involvement-in-rheumatoid-arthritis-fascinating-discovery-neglected-joint/
      and yes, I’d think stiffness would make sense to go with it.

      Reply
  • July 30, 2013 at 4:21 am
    Permalink

    Kelly, I read that you are making a list o good (excellent) rheumies. I have been blessed in the 6 years of my illness to have had some pretty good doctors and two excellent ones. I would like to share their names and contact info but was unable to find that link. Can you either email it to be or publish it here? Thanks.

    Reply
    • July 30, 2013 at 8:35 am
      Permalink

      you can email me the dr name kelly at rawarrrior.com
      thanks Cynthia

      Reply
  • July 30, 2013 at 6:28 am
    Permalink

    1’st Kelly, I just wanted to say how proud I am of you, for many reasons, but today b/c of your courage involving calling this disease just what it is – a disease. You shouldn’t need much courage to call something what it is, but alas – here we are. So many will claim that there’s too much to lose calling it “something different”, but I contend that calling it anything other than a disease (including arthritis) is an injustice. I’ve stated many times before about how I believe that is contributing greatly to our ongoing lack of awareness, and to me and other patients, this is the greatest progress that could be made in this community.

    On to the post at hand, I have this ALL the time. Pretty much in my left elbow and some in my left ankle/right wrist. but the elbow is the worst, and it will hurt too when this happens. Mostly though it’s just that I have to do range exercises with it for a moment and it will clear it out so I can move freely again.

    The problems come when driving, or doing other tasks that require attention and 100% focus. When the symptom happens, I can’t usually do much with that entire arm until I “clear it” as I like to think of it. If I don’t push though it, many times it remains locked in a smaller range of motion (if any at all) until I do.

    Reply
    • July 30, 2013 at 6:31 am
      Permalink

      Over a year ago, I decided that if no other changes were made publicly – I would make some personally, and call it Rheumatoid disease in my own interactions/life. You doing so publicly with thousands listening is very powerful. Thanks so much for all your work, Kelly.

      Reply
    • August 1, 2013 at 2:31 pm
      Permalink

      Thank you Michael. I’m willing to face whatever criticism there might be to do the right thing. What have WE (patients) got to lose? The disease keeps stealing from us & no one else is going to take this battle on for us. I look forward to hearing what you think of my first book – which is about done – when I can get it to press. It is historical & medical evidence about the disease.

      Reply
  • August 1, 2013 at 7:01 am
    Permalink

    Welcome back–we’ve missed you! I was worried about you…

    My doc actually called it crepitus years ago, and checks it at every visit. In my knees, it’s always there, but sometimes so loud my kids can’t stand to be in ear-shot when I go up and down the stairs. I’ve had it in my neck for as long as I can remember since my dx 10+ years ago, though I’m the only one that hears it. It is disconcerting, as the sound is magnified when it’s in your neck. Less frequently, I get it in my shoulders, and that hurts the most. Lately, my feet click, especially in the evening, and my hands. I look at it as an audible sign that it’s not “in my head” (though literally, it is!)

    So glad you’re back, Kelly. This is a great community, and I’m so happy I’m not alone.

    Reply
  • August 1, 2013 at 12:35 pm
    Permalink

    Oh yes! I’ve made people ill at work because my neck gets so stiff that I need to move and crack it every few minutes; it used to be a ‘crick’ (my physical therapist calls it a ‘restriction’) only on the right side, now both sides are equal players in stiffness and loud cracking. (My husband and I joke, for really loud ones, I wiggle my fingers and toes to make sure I didnt snap my own spine).

    I have to say – I was diagnosed with RA/AS in Fall 2011, and have been trying to live like nothing’s wrong. I’ve deteriorated, and am making the needed adjustments, which are so difficult – it was great to find your RAW site and a community that understand that I’m not crazy 🙂

    Reply
  • August 2, 2013 at 2:51 am
    Permalink

    Hi everyone! I am moved by all of your courage in this endeavour! I am not an RA warrior yet, but I would love to be of help. I am a Nursing student who needs help and would love to hear from real strong individuals who are suffering from this “silent disease”. Please let me know if you are interested in helping me spread awareness thru a nursing project presentation. I would greatly appreciate it. my email is crheanice@yahoo.com thank you in advance. God bless you all.

    Reply
  • August 2, 2013 at 7:05 pm
    Permalink

    hello kelly,

    so glad to see you back. i have tried to post before but it never takes. i hope it does now.

    I have had “popping” sounds in my upper back and neck since my early 20’s. The “pops” for a long time brought oain relief.

    But this haunted house crepitus noise in my neck parallels the beginning of the “diagnosed” RA. The noise is not the same . It is frightening and there is no pain relief. i discussed it with the Rheumy. It tokk a few months but he did order the x-ray and latter the MRI. he says it is osteo-arthrtis not RA. I mean RD.

    like the wrists and … … ice eases the discomfort enough to get some sleep.

    humor: ice packs on wrists, neck and spine.
    heating pad on feet to keep from freezing in the winter.

    i have enjoyed reading your blog. beginning a couple moths ago i started spot reading the comments

    Thankyou,
    NVK

    Reply
  • August 5, 2013 at 12:04 pm
    Permalink

    Back when I was struggling to find out what was causing all the pain I had, the doctors notices that I had crepitus in both knees (although I could never hear it). An Orthopedist told me that it probably mean I had osteoarthritis as well, and the first Rheumatologist I ever saw, told me that it meant that I had osteoarthritis and NOT RA. This was in spite of the fact that all my lab tests to date and all of my other symptoms screamed RA. Needless to say, I never went back to that doctor. Now, I have a Rheumatologist that I can trust, and my pain and inflammation are under control. He doesn’t much care about the noise in my knees, as long as there is no pain or swelling and the noise doesn’t change.

    Reply
  • August 12, 2013 at 1:40 pm
    Permalink

    I have had those noises when moving my hips when in a flair. I now have them consistently in my ankles, shoulders, and neck. Sometimes it sounds like the links in a plastic chain are being ” unkinked” and straightened. The shoulders and hips do have movement pain, but I also have a lot of fear when it happens — afraid something will break. With anyone that has had this experience, does it seem to be indicative of the RD getting worse or is it more often temporary and reoccurring?

    Reply
  • August 14, 2013 at 8:24 am
    Permalink

    I was diagnosed with RA in 2006.I have been on methotrexate,Orencia,Humira and now Rituxin.I have been getting 8 months out of the Rituxin treatment.As of lately I have popping in my back and neck.I go see my Rheumatologist on the 26th of this month.I am excited to see what he says.This disease is not a fun disease but so far mine has been manageable.

    Reply
  • August 19, 2013 at 1:17 pm
    Permalink

    My popping is largely confined to my jaw joints, but it’s a horrible feeling, whether its actually painful or not. I now have great fun at the dentist, trying to get my mouth tp open far enough. I often think I could do with a car jack to both get it open and hold it open!

    Reply
  • August 19, 2013 at 1:20 pm
    Permalink

    I’ve actually had this noise in my knees for years prior to being diagnosed with RA. Its started with swelling in my knees as a teenager, and now, I barely have any swelling. Any pain I have now is directly related to the crunching they make.

    Reply
  • August 31, 2013 at 5:53 pm
    Permalink

    Ha ha, loved this post! Years ago, in my early stages, I saw a physiatrist for my cervical spine. After he explained he couldn’t do much more for me, besides more injections that did not help, I asked about the horrible crunching noses in my neck. Surely something could be done? They were driving me insane. He looked insulted, and haughtily replied “I don’t treat noises!” and walked out of the room. I never went back to him.

    Kim

    Reply
  • March 16, 2016 at 5:08 pm
    Permalink

    I had joint problems at a young age (16), swelling in the ankles that would last for several weeks at a time. Also had terrible fatigue, sob, and now at 62 I’m still being evaluated for
    Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, etc. I believe I have RA, but because the RA “experts” I’ve seen
    through the years tell me I test negative for it, they end up telling me I have undifferentiated
    connective tissue disease. Well, that’s an easy out for them, isn’t it? Has anyone else encountered this problem?

    Reply
  • March 22, 2016 at 12:14 am
    Permalink

    Hello Kelly. I’m not even sure if you will get this post as its 3 yrs old. I just needed some comfort is all. For the past 2 years, I have had very little pain in my hands and feet and knees etc. Now however in the past 2 weeks, it seems like a I do is Crack and pop! Today my neck and back and hips and knees and feet have been extremely stiff and sore. I tried moving my washer to the side as it was too close to the dryer and was making noise.so I reached out and gently put pressure on the washer to move it a tiny bit. I didn’t even budge it. I did however hear a very loud Crack in both my shoulder blades and it scares me so bad..I started freaking out. But I was able to walk away and move my arms and everything. This is the first time it’s ever happened to me. My back isn’t so stiff anymore though and has a slight achy feeling since the unannounced shoulder blade cracking. I noticed in others comments that this happens quite often. RD sucks. Tomorrow I will be taking my day, nice and slow. Thank you everyone for your comments. They make me feel better.

    Reply
  • May 26, 2016 at 8:14 am
    Permalink

    I get that noise in my knees when I squat. It’s like the note popping candy makes when it hits your tongue lol. I’m 34 and have had RA since I was 22 but still able laugh about these things 🙂

    Reply
  • June 2, 2016 at 11:40 am
    Permalink

    Hi, i am having this noise from my every joint i.e from back,knee, elbow,wrist and even from neck. And my knee is paining and my back and back neck too. How is your life going on with RA. Were you good at work. I am just 25. I have my wife and son to take care of. Can you please reply with information about RA in my email krilaxsh12@gmail.com

    Reply
  • July 31, 2016 at 5:07 pm
    Permalink

    This was very helpful to know other people have experienced or are experiencing the same symptoms. I have gone to several Drs. and explained my symptoms, but no one seemed to guide me in the right direction. I suddenly remembered the the word crepitus arthritis from nursing school many years ago, soI decided to look up the symptoms. Thanks, now I can take a more active role in my treatment.

    Reply
  • September 5, 2016 at 10:55 am
    Permalink

    I have them in both knees bad. I thought for sure my dr said it was from OA not RA, while also saying that eventually I would have to have knee replacements because they are so bad. Cortisone shots don’t do anything at this point. Also, I thought I was I told that RA didn’t affect knees, but now I see in all literature that it does. So, now I am questioning what my dr told me! Luckily I go see him tomorrow. I am wondering why I haven’t been treated more aggressively if my knees are to the point that they need to be replaced and I’m only 45.

    Reply
  • October 24, 2016 at 11:27 pm
    Permalink

    Good evening Kelly. I hope you are doing well this evening. I was wondering about your book. It has been 3 years since this last post. Did you indeed finish your book and what is the name of it, so I may purchase it please? Thank you

    Reply
  • October 24, 2016 at 11:48 pm
    Permalink

    Hi kathy. I too am in your boat. However I’m 36 years old and I have family that have OA and RD in my mothers family as well as herself with OA. I’ve had issues on and off for years. No one believes me and all texts and xrays and MRIs are all neg. Yet I have pain. Its managable, but there are days of extreme pain and fatique. The worse is the daily crackling snapping and popping too. The kneck and back snapping and popping are definitely the scarier of all my joints. Ive moved to a new town and hoping for results. I know what this is…I wish the doctors would stop saying it’s Fibromyasia..or its all in my head…I just want to prove that I do have this disease. Im 5’2 3/4″ tall. I weigh 145 and I have plantar fasia even though i hate sports and am not into excerising as its just makes me ache more.. and my fingers are twisting amongst other body parts. My hip joints seize sometimes and crunch when i walk. I swear my whole body talks! All of my joints! I fully understand your frustration Kathy. We are supposed to be properly diagnosed early. Yet ive been fighting for someone to believe me for well over 7 years. I had issues as a child in and out of hospitals. My hands and feet losing sensitivity during the midnight hours..where id wake in a panic trying to return circulation to them..in my teens my left knee swelled so bad for 2 weeks before i was able to put any pressure on it without pain…many times i should have been diagnosed properly. I dont want pills! I want a doctor to believe me..I want positive test results!

    Reply
  • July 15, 2017 at 3:00 pm
    Permalink

    Just come across this, a few years after most of the comments. I can relate to a lot of what is being said. Had a nightmare two years since turning 32 – I injured my back playing tennis and from there it’s gone downhill. The symptoms I suffer from are:

    – pain in the muscles around the thoracic spine – a dull, oppressive ache
    – discomfort in neck and shoulders emanating from back
    – dupuytrens disease in the left hand. This has developed in the area where I once had trigger finger surgery when I was 18.
    – weakness in the hands and wrists – tiredness, burning sensation etc. Lack of sensation when cold
    – thinning of the hands i.e. some noticeable atrophy

    And of course…

    – popping and clicking everywhere. Most predominant in hands, elbows and shoulders, put also in spine, neck, head (!), knees, ankles, toes.

    I’ve got to say, I hate the sounds…it suggests to me the body is breaking down, and although I try to exercise as much as possible and build up strength, there seems to be nothing which can stop the crepitus.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


“imaware™
    Advertisement
Would You Like Free Email Updates?
Stay in touch with RA Warrior.
We respect your privacy. Your email address will never be shared.