Noisy Joints During Yoga: Are the Sounds Normal?

An image of a group yoga class. The group is in a pose where they're kneeling with their arms raised above.

Yoga classes are usually pretty quiet - until students start moving their joints and muscles. The natural soundtrack of cracks and pops that accompany downward dog or Marichi's poses can get quite loud at times. The sounds may be a little alarming, but they usually aren't a sign of a serious problem with your joints.

More Than One Reason for Noisy Joints

More than one phenomenon is responsible for cracking or popping joints. Gas bubbles in the synovial fluid is a common cause of noisy joints. Synovial fluid lubricates your joints, making it easier for them to move. For many years, doctors thought that the sound occurred when nitrogen bubbles in the joints popped. Just a few years ago, researchers at the University of Alberta disproved that theory. They discovered that the cracking and popping sounds actually occur when a bubble forms, rather than pops. Moving your joints changes the distribution of the fluid in your joints, causing the harmless bubbles to form.

Other causes of noisy joints include:

  • Tendons and Ligaments. Tendons connect your muscles to your bones, while ligaments connect bones together. When you move a joint, the position of the tendons and ligaments change quickly, causing a cracking sound.
  • Muscles. Some popping or cracking sounds occur when a tight muscle rubs against a bone. You may notice the sounds more when you first begin your yoga session. As your muscles warm up and become looser, the sounds will probably decrease.
  • Joint Fixation. Suction can cause the bones in a joint to become temporarily stuck together. When you move, the suction breaks and causes a crack or pop. You may hear the noise when you move your back, fingers or toes, or crack your knuckles.
  • Bones Rubbing Together. Friction from bones rubbing together can cause those cracking or popping sounds. If wear and tear has decreased the amount of cartilage in your joints, popping or cracking sounds may be a frequent occurrence when you practice yoga.
  • Knee Cap Misalignment. Cracking knees are fairly common and can occur if there is a slight misalignment between your kneecap and the groove in the joint that holds it in place. When your move your leg, your kneecap can get stuck in the edge of the groove for a second. When it breaks free, you'll hear a crack or pop when it falls back into the groove.

When should I be concerned about noisy joints?

A little noise usually isn't a problem, but if the sound effects are accompanied by pain or swelling, you may want to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Pain can be a symptom of arthritis, tendinitis, bursitis or other conditions. Continuing to exercise if you experience pain may cause lasting damage or chronic pain.

How Can I Turn Down the Noise?

Although cracking and popping usually isn't a sign of a problem, the noise can be annoying. If you want to decrease the volume, try one or more of these tips:

  • Don't Forget to Stretch. When time is limited, you may be tempted to skip stretching before performing complicated yoga poses. As you move, you may hear cracking or popping sounds as your muscles rub against your bones. Spending at least 10 minutes on stretching will help relax and loosen your muscles and decrease the sounds.
  • Bend Your Knees. Does the cracking occur when you perform poses that involve raising your legs? Bending your knees may reduce the sound.
  • Work on Improving Muscle Strength. The quadriceps, the large muscle in the front of your thigh, helps support the kneecap. Strengthening your quadriceps can help correct the alignment of your knee and stop the cracking or popping.

Our yoga classes start with plenty of stretching to help you minimize noisy joints. Contact us today to learn about the classes we offer.


Yogi Times: Cracking, Popping, Noisy Joints in Yoga

Yoga Journal: The Truth About Cracking + Popping Joints, 8/28/07

PLOS One: Real-Time Visualization of Joint Cavitation, 4/15/15

PLOS One: Real-Time Visualization of Joint Cavitation, 4/15/15

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