We're surrounded by machines: computers, cars, HVAC systems, TV's, lawnmowers, airplanes, etc. It's not crazy to start viewing our bodies in the same way that we view those machines. Mainly, if there is a noise, a weird vibration, or a "creak," or "pop" we've got a problem.
It turns out, you aren't a machine, and the research agrees that periodic or even reliable creaks and pops of the joints aren't death sentences or even guaranteed arthritis waiting to happen.
What the pros have found out
Medical personnel have been interested/concerned about the sounds our bodies make since before the invention of the automobile. If that "pop" your knee makes when you fully straighten it is on your mind, rest assured it's also on the mind of your doctor.
That's just it though; it may only be in your mind. In this study, researchers asked people with crepitus (that's the nefarious name given to your body's "pops" and "creaks") their perception of what the sound meant.
Patients often felt that they were weaker in that specific joint or capable of less activity. BUT, when actually tested for strength and range of motion, researchers found no difference between those with the "condition" and people who reported no "creaks" or "pops."
All that kneeling may not be as bad for your knees as you think. Take a knee and listen up.
(U.S. Army photo by SFC Claudio Tejada/Released)
In this other study, when researchers looked at individual's perceptions on their joint noise, they found that people often thought the noise meant that they were:
- Getting old
- Falling apart
- On the verge of a serious medical condition
The great news is that you aren't alone. If you have a "creak" or "pop" that keeps you awake at night, the sound isn't uncommon. 99% of all people evaluated in this study, whether they thought they had crepitus or not, had an audible noise in one of their joints.You read that last one right: 99% of people have a noisy joint.
"It's a boy!"....ummm I think that's a knee.
(U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel, Naval Hospital Jacksonville/Released)
How perceptions form
We don't catastrophize on our own. We get these dreadful, anxiety-inducing fears about how our bodies are going to let us down from the world we live in. Particularly two places.
Doctors: There are two scenarios that tend to happen in the doctor's office that leads people to believe that their joint is going to explode.
In scenario A, your doctor says something like: "Hmmm, that's not normal." or, even worse, "Aren't you in a lot of pain?"
In scenario B, the exact opposite happens, but it results in the same outcome. Your doctor may say something like, "That's nothing; don't worry about it." If you aren't a fan of your doctor, though, or if they've been wrong before you will just assume that he/she is just stupid or lazy and in fact you are doomed!
REMEMBER: Your doctor, although a trained professional, is human. Everything they say or do may not be a direct reflection on you. He/she might just be having a bad day. Go into every visit open-minded but skeptical and get a second opinion before you decide to label yourself as broken.
Family and friends: Just because Aunt Becky has bad knees doesn't mean your elbow "pop" is the first stage of osteoarthritis.
I'll leave this one at that.
Gather your own information, experiment on yourself, and measure your performance in the gym. Those are the only ways you'll be able to make the best decision for your body.
Aunt Becky is a pessimist anyway. Don't paint yourself into the same sh*t-colored corner she's been in for the last 47 years.
Don’t stop training
The one thing that is for sure when it comes to a potential chronic joint or bone issue is that if you stop training, you are more likely to have a negative outcome.
We damage our muscles when we lift. They grow back stronger each time.
Higher impact activities like running send a signal to our bones that they need to stay strong and dense to keep us survivable.
When you stop training your muscles and bones think they can become weak and flimsy. They need constant daily stimulation to stay at their strongest.
That's how we're different from machines.
Parts of your car have a certain number of repetitions or miles traveled that they are guaranteed to work before they fail. Our body parts don't have a terminal date.
Of course, you can overwork certain joints, but that's a conversation for a different time.
Think about your training like a Momma bear, Poppa bear, Baby bear situation.
Too little is bad.
Too much can also be bad.
But, there's a sweet spot right in the middle that will promote a long and high-quality life.