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Joint creaking

My dog’s joints make crunching sounds and how to treat it?

10 Nov, 2019

In humans and dogs, we sometimes hear noises when joints flex and extend. Joint noise can be described as popping, snapping, clicking, grinding, grating, crackling, and crunching.

“Popping”, “snapping” or “clicking” describes a single noise when a joint moves. These types of noises typically indicates an injury situation such as a tear of meniscus or ligaments such as a cruciate ligament in the knee / stifle joint.

On the other hand, “grinding” or “grating” noises describes a continuous scratching noise as the joint moves through its range of motion. There are a number of possible causes of this type of joint noise.

Noise with joint movement is known as crepitus and may be accompanied by pain, and swelling.

What causes crepitus?

Noise when a joint moves is caused by friction between articulating surfaces in a joint or when ligaments or tendons snap back after stretching over bony structures. Friction between anatomical structures causes vibration which creates acoustic energy, some of which releases into the air resulting in audible sounds.

Does crepitus mean my dog has osteoarthritis?

Crepitus in the absence of injury such as a ligament tear may indicate cartilage lesions symptomatic of osteoarthritis or inflammatory arthritis. In humans, knee joints with radiographically diagnosed osteoarthritis had a higher frequency and longer duration of crepitus than healthy knees.

Further, in a longitudinal human study, the presence of crepitus was predictive of the development of osteoarthritis. A statistically significant number of participants that reported crepitus and had no radiographically diagnosed osteoarthritis at the beginning of the study had developed osteoarthritis within 48 months.

Studies in humans indicate that crepitus occurs in the presence of osteophytes (bone spurs links to the degeneration of cartilage in joints), ligament pathologies, cartilage damage, and meniscal tears in knee joints.

How to treat crepitus?

As there is an association between crepitus and the development of osteoarthritis, treating crepitus is important to potentially slow the onset of osteoarthritis symptoms.

The objective of conservative treatment for crepitus would include the following:

  • Maintaining the health of musculotendinous structures over joints
  • Strengthening the muscles that surround joints
  • Reducing inflammation in the joint
  • Protecting against further joint damage

Treatments may include massage, physical therapy and nutritional support.

In some cases surgical intervention may be beneficial to reconstruct ligaments or excise lesions.

For further information about causes and treatment of crepitus please see:

Full Stride provides remedial massage treatments, formulates home based exercises and designs a whole, raw food diets to re-establish and maintain healthy joint function. Massage consultations are offered in the dog’s home within a service area in Brisbane or at my home based treatment room on Brisbane’s northside.

Until next time, enjoy your dogs.


Lo, G. H., Strayhorn, M. T., Driban, J. B., Price, L. L., Eaton, C. B., & Mcalindon, T. E. (2018). Subjective crepitus as a risk factor for incident symptomatic knee osteoarthritis: data from the osteoarthritis initiative. Arthritis care & research, 70(1), 53-60.

Schiphof, D., van Middelkoop, M., De Klerk, B. M., Oei, E. H. G., Hofman, A., Koes, B. W., … & Bierma-Zeinstra, S. M. A. (2014). Crepitus is a first indication of patellofemoral osteoarthritis (and not of tibiofemoral osteoarthritis). Osteoarthritis and cartilage, 22(5), 631-638.

Song SJ, Park CH, Liang H, Kim SJ. Noise around the Knee. Clin Orthop Surg. 2018 Mar;10(1):1-8.

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