Crepitus is a medical term used for a certain sound like crackling, popping and crinkly feeling underneath the skin. It can be due to a presence of a gas bellow the surface, either in the lungs or inside the joints. The sound comes from the air fluctuating beneath the soft tissue, where normally it should not be. It can be a sign of a cartilage wear associated with certain joint diseases. It is often heard as a symptom in arthritis or joint injury. It is normal for a popping sound to be heard sometimes when moving your leg or bending your knee. This sound comes from forming bubbles in synovial fluid. The crackle sound is different and not considered normal.
Associated Signs That Can Come With Crepitus
- Pain inside the joint area which can be due to cartilage tear and friction between bone surfaces
- Morning stiffness after long period of inactivity which gets better after physical activity
- Swollen joint, red, hot and inflamed
- Limited movement and rigidity
Signs Which May Indicate More Serious Condition
- Stabbing pain in the chest with a pressure sensation that’s getting worse
- Cyanosis (a violet/blue-ish color of the skin which is an indicator of hypoxia or low saturation of the hemoglobin)
- Fever, chill and infection symptoms
- Vomiting, diarrhea, gastrointestinal problems
- Loss of consciousness and alterations of mind
Causes Of Crepitus
Some of the popping sounds are normal and nothing to be concerned about. But there are some conditions where the crackling sound can indicate a certain disease or complication. Here are some of them:
- Arthritis. The wear of the joint which is common in elderly due to wear of the cartilage cushion which leads to inflammation and pain. Eventually, bones rub on each other, leading to crackling sounds and pain.
- Meniscus tear. It is common in athletes and sporty people who tend to overuse the joints. It can happen while running or doing some extreme activity. It can create crepitus when you try to bend your knee and mostly if there are some loose bodies that irritate the meniscus and lead to crackling sound phenomena.
- Chondromalacia patella. This is a patellofemoral pain syndrome which goes with overuse or injury of the knee joint. It can cause pain behind knee cap and crepitation sounds when moving.
- Penetrating injuries that occur in the thorax or abdomen which can cause tension pneumothorax when the air gets trapped inside the chest.
- Injury of the hollow organ such as intestines or stomach. It can create the air escape in the abdomen which can produce air crepitation under the skin.
- Infection such as clostridium perfrigens which can cause gas production and lead to crepitation and gas gangrene.
Complications depend on the affected area and the size of the change. It differs from joint to thorax changes and can lead to life-threatening conditions.
- The joint injuries can progress and end up in chronic pain, lack of joint movement and rigidity. It is advised to consult a doctor for the right treatment.
- An open injury can lead to post-infection due to bacterial invasion of the open wound. It is important to stick to aseptic conditions and regularly treat the wound and keep it clean.
- A condition such as pneumothorax can lead to a life-threatening condition where the trapped air can compress the lungs even more and damage the heart function due to increased gas pressure which can result in hypoxia, cyanosis, and cardiac arrest.
Depending on the cause, certain remedies can be solved with home remedy treatments or certain change in lifestyle. Here are some of them.
- Cold Compresses. If you notice that your knee or other ankle starts to swell, you should put some ice on a towel and press on the affected area. It will numb the pain and cause vessels constriction which will reduce the swelling. Don’t keep it longer than 15 minutes and take a break if it needs more than one-time treatment.
- Elastic Bands. They can help with managing joint which needs a bit of support. It will give the needed pressure and ease the pain and will also keep your joint in place which will reduce further injury.
- Weight Loss. If you have a genetic predisposition to arthritis or osteoarthritis, you should keep your weight optimal since it can increase the chance of occurrence in later life. You should eat well and keep your activity to a moderate level.
- Supplements. If you suffer from weak joints and you are prone to cartilage wear, you should take mineral and vitamin supplements such as vitamin D, calcium and certain creams with hyaluronic acid.
- Medications. If you suffer from joint conditions, you can take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen to ease the pain and stop the inflammation. You can take Advil or aspirin, but be careful if you’re taking other drugs since they can interact and cause hemorrhage.
- Moderation Of A Lifestyle. If you overuse your joints, you are at high risk of joint injury and cartilage tear. You should avoid extreme and sudden moves and you should wear protective clothes and certain bandages for compression.
There are certain conditions which can’t subside by itself and it needs medical attention. There are some treatments for recovery.
- Replacement of the meniscus or cartilage inside the joint.
- Bone abrasion which can help with friction between the bones.
- Chondroplasty which is a medical treatment used for smoothing out the cartilage edges.
- Surgery for pneumothorax and air evacuation which may include some complication solving too.