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Having cracking sounds in neck and back in certain movements. What causes these crackling sounds?

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Orthopaedic Surgeon
Practicing since : 1994
Answered : 10427 Questions
Greetings. I would like to understand more about the the physiology related to the issue of feeling crackling sounds in my back when I make certain movements, when I bend from the waist or turn my back in certain ways. There is no pain involved, just the sound. It only began just a few months ago.
For many years I have felt the crackling sound in my neck when I turn my head up and around, so the sensation of the back is just like that. I was told years ago that "everybody" has crackling sounds in their neck.

In any case, what causes these crackling sounds in the neck and back, and why does it occur in the back sometimes and other times? Is this a common thing? Is it likely degeneration that will eventually worsen, or is it possible that it is caused by something else, or perhaps just the muscles? I never experienced it before in my back. Although my family doctor tells me not to worry about it I at least want to understand clearly what the physiology is. Thank you.
Posted Wed, 29 May 2013 in Bones, Muscles and Joints
Answered by Dr. Praveen Tayal 42 minutes later
Thanks for posting your query.
The painless crackling noise in the neck and back is the gliding of joints as you turn your neck or back. If your joint has been injured or becomes inflamed, the surface may thicken, creating a rubbing sound as you move. A courser noise may indicate more advanced changes in the surfaces of one or more joints. Such changes can be caused by osteoarthritis (OA) or spondylottic changes.

OA can happen from normal wear and tear or changed joint alignment (due to an injury, or when your muscles are tense or in spasm, or from poor spine postures that have been used over the years). A physical therapy program to help with your posture and muscle balance can improve movement in your neck and back and may help stop the noise.
I hope this answers your query.
In case you have additional questions or doubts, you can forward them to me, and I shall be glad to help you out.
Please accept my answer in case you do not have further queries.
Wishing you good health.
Dr. Praveen Tayal.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Having cracking sounds in neck and back in certain movements. What causes these crackling sounds? 30 minutes later
Thank you, Dr. Tayal. A year ago I missed a couple of step and fell with my left arm outstretched. I had muscle strain for a few months but it went away. Is it possible this caused the back crackling? I have had no pain, but should I have xrays done fora Chiropracter? Should I be concerned? I have had the crackling sounds in my neck for many many years when I turn my neck round about.

Answered by Dr. Praveen Tayal 7 minutes later
Thanks for writing again.
The crackling could be related to the fall you had years ago. Any such minor pathology cannot be detected on X-rays. MRI scan is the best test for proper evaluation.
Hope my answer is helpful.
Do accept my answer in case there are no further queries.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Having cracking sounds in neck and back in certain movements. What causes these crackling sounds? 1 hour later
Thank you. What could be discovered in an MRI, and is it possible the crackling will eventually cease, or will continue harmlessly as in the neck?
Answered by Dr. Praveen Tayal 2 hours later
The osteoarthritic changes can be identified on MRI scan. Regular muscle strengthening exercises and joint lubricant supplements can help in decreasing the crackling noise.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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