When I wake up in the morning my feet often crack as I walk down the stairs. I always wonder if that cracking is mostly harmless or if I should be concerned.

Cracking joints is a common problem these days, especially people’s knees. Getting up, sitting down, or getting out of the bed, people hear pops and cracks every day. The sound is never very pleasant and sure sounds like something is wrong. But is it harmless? Are my feet okay? Or are people’s knees about to give?

What That Knee Cracking or Popping Really Means

In almost all cases that common sound of cracking in your knees and other joints is nothing to be feared. In general, it is just a natural part of aging.

As we grow older our cartilage becomes uneven in places. When we stand up or squat down those uneven surfaces can touch, creating a cracking noise.

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The popping sound is related to bubbles that can form in the synovial fluid around your joints. Bubbles of nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide form when the joint is stretched or moved, and are then released, causing a popping noise.

My mother always cringed when she heard my feet crack, and told me that it was probably a bad sign, but in most cases it’s actually quite normal and doesn’t require any medical attention. But there are other times when that noise is a sign that something else is going on.

When That Cracking Could Be a Problem

The main thing to look out for is pain. If the cracking and popping is painless, you’re probably in the clear. But if your knees hurt, you could have a problem. Tingling, numbness, and stiffness are also things to look out for.

It could mean that the cartilage in your joints has worn down and that you are developing osteoarthritis. This could lead to your bones rubbing together, causing stiffness and a limited range of motion.

A second problem that could occur is a meniscus tear. If you hear the cracking or popping while you are working out or playing a sport, you may have really injured your knee and should go see a doctor.

The Bottom Line About The Popping and Cracking

Though the noise may be sound scary sometimes, you don’t really need to be worried about all the noise. A little popping and cracking from time to time is quite normal and is just gas bubbles popping in the fluid around your joints.

You really only need to worried if other symptoms accompany the noise. If your joints hurt, or are stiff or swollen, you should see a doctor because you may have arthritis or another serious condition.
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