Cracking joints, or “crepitations” to give the proper medical term, mainly affect the knees, finger joints, and hips. The cracking may be due to osteoarthritis, but it isn’t always necessarily the case. Almost everyone is affected at some time in their lives by creaking or cracking hips and knees. If you don’t have any other symptoms, such as pain or tenderness, it presumably does not pose any risk and is just a temporary occurrence. If you feel pain or discomfort, you should seek help.
Cracking in the hip
Cracking and cracking in the hip is often due to one of the muscles gliding over another tendon or bony outgrowth. This may crop up at irregular intervals without presenting any risk. If this is the cause of the cracking in your hip, it is completely harmless and may be treated by strengthening and balancing the muscles around the joint.
Exercising as normal
If you exercise regularly and find that your joints are cracking, but without feeling any accompanying pain, there is no problem, in the vast majority of cases, continuing to exercise as normal. However, it is important that you warm up before an exercise session as the muscles will be at their most effective and there will be less risk of injury and overexertion. Types of exercise that are good for the hip joint and its muscles are strength exercises, focusing on the hip and leg, preferably in combination with conditioning exercises. If you are having a lot of problems, but are not used to doing exercise, it may be a good idea to buy some rubber bands to exercise with at home. They are easy to use at home for strengthening muscles.
On the other hand, if the cracking joints get worse after you have been sitting down, sleeping or motionless for a lengthy period, it may be a good idea to get examined by a physiotherapist or doctor. This is because the cracking may be a symptom of the condition osteoarthritis. This is especially the case if the sound is followed by swelling, tenderness, and pain.
Osteoarthritis in the hip
If you notice your hip cracking and it feels stiff and sore when you are moving around, it may be osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis means that the cartilage in the joints is breaking down, resulting in the joint components not gliding as easily towards each other.
Osteoarthritis in the hip does not occur suddenly, but is a gradual process, lasting very often several months and years. The main reason why osteoarthritis in the hip occurs is due to a high level of exertion over a long period. This may result, for instance, from a muscle weakness or heavy work. If you had a dislocation in your hip joint as a child, this can also cause osteoarthritis later in life. The same is true if you suffered a fracture or injury to the joint earlier on in life.
Read more about osteoarthritis.
More common to have cracking joints at an older age
Osteoarthritis is not part of the natural aging process. On the other hand, getting older causes greater exertion from risk factors for osteoarthritis, which is why this disease is more common, the older you get. The cartilage in the hip becomes thinner and uneven with osteoarthritis and then it may creak during movement. Many people experience cracking in their hips during certain physical exertions, for instance, when going upstairs. If you do exercise regularly, you can both strengthen and stretch the muscles, which can sometimes also reduce the cracking in the joints.
Contact a physiotherapist
If you notice that your hip is cracking at the same time as you’re experiencing pain and that the hip locks or the joint is tender, the first thing you are recommended to do is contact a physiotherapist. They will make an initial assessment of the condition and can often find the cause for the cracking joints. Then they can devise a treatment plan, often in the form of a personalized exercise program, which can ease the problems. If this course of action does not help, it may be appropriate to have further investigations carried out by a doctor to find out what the cause is of the cracking joints.