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I have been getting back into working out (both running and weights) and its going pretty well as i am getting back into it and being pretty consistent.

The one issue is that i have started to get a cracking in various joints. Most notably my knees, ankles and shoulders. I am assuming that the knees and ankles are from running and the shoulders from weights, but I wanted to see if this was normal while you are getting back in shape or if this is sign that i am pushing too hard or doing something wrong

I can recreate these "cracks" when i stretch (like doing ankles circles or shoulder circles) or just walk around (in case of ankles)

Any advice would be great. Also, are there any vitamins or other things that can help with joint pain or cracking?

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I've tried taking Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM for two months as prescribed by a GNC store "nutrition expert", but that did nothing to fix my cracking joints. –  JoJo Oct 6 '11 at 17:38
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I guess the question I would ask is how severe is the pain? And is the pain experience only when things "crack" or is it persistent pain that last for hours/days? –  Ryan Miller Oct 6 '11 at 19:12
    
@Ryan Miller - not severe pain at all but the cracking is worrying me. –  leora Oct 7 '11 at 12:57
    
@ooo You describe the cracking, but not the joint pain. It's in the title and you say it's "not severe pain at all"...is joint pain part of the question? If so, what's going on? –  Dave Liepmann Oct 10 '11 at 21:07
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@ooo do you do a significant warm up routine before you exercise? Does that reduce the 'cracks'? –  mike Oct 13 '11 at 16:37
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2 Answers

I don't know the exact cause of cracking joints and as that page indicates professional opinion is also inconclusive, but I've always thought it was the cavitation of the synovial fluid which is again confirmed there.

From Johns Hopkins' Orthopedic page:

Cracking and popping of joints is usually normal and most of the time is nothing to be concerned about. Strangely enough the exact reason joints pop and snap is not totally understood. One theory is that the ligaments (tethers that hold the bones together) make these noises as they get tight rapidly when the joint is moving. In some instances, popping may be due to a tendon snapping over or around the joint. Another theory is that nitrogen bubbles in the fluid inside the joint are rapidly brought into or out of solution when the joint is manipulated, such as cracking the knuckles in the hand. These noises with movement of a joint, particularly the knee, may sound like folding stiff paper, and are called "crepitus". These noises are increased frequently after surgery on a joint, although the exact reason is not clear.

From personal experience I found that the crackling and popping is most intense when I have a lot of muscle tightness and I haven't stretched in a long time. I also notice being sedentary or immobile for long periods of times aggravates it further.

My personal approach to reducing joint pain and crackling sounds is by foam rolling, stretching and doing dynamic stretching (mobility). I would spend a lot of time improving my flexibility and make sure the joints are fully warmed up.

To improve range of motion you can do:

Finally, even though stretching/foam rolling etc can be helpful, if done incorrectly or too aggressively it can be injuries. So make sure to take your time and ramp up slowly. If you feel like you have chronic or acute symptoms then you should definitely see a sports doctor.

Edit: Here's another source from StrongLifts.com echoing what I said about soft tissue work.

One thing that seems to diminish the cracking is soft tissue work. Some say the cracking/popping joints is evidence of trigger points causing joint stress. You can eliminate those trigger points yourself with a foam roller. For cracking knees I recommend foam rolling your calves, but also your IT band etc.

Finally, here's a warm up guide I wrote a while ago, which includes foam rolling, static and dynamic stretching.

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I haven't completely eliminated cracking, but I found taking an epsom salt bath before lifting weights significantly reduced cracking I experienced while doing the lifting, and after a while the cracking I experienced throughout the day decreased as well. I'm not sure if the latter is a result of my strength improvements or directly from the epsom salt baths.

Here is more information on the benefits of epsom salt baths:

According to the National Academy of Sciences, American’s magnesium deficiency helps to account for high rates of heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, arthritis and joint pain, digestive maladies, stress-related illnesses, chronic fatigue and a number of other ailments. Who knew?!

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What the heck is an epsom salt bath? And do you have any evidence to back up your claims? –  Ivo Flipse Jun 30 '12 at 14:32
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Is English your second language? It's quite clear from my answer that I'm talking about personal experience. Also, a simple internet search will tell you what epsom salts are. –  Robin Ashe Jun 30 '12 at 21:52
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Yes, but I shouldn't have to Google every term in your answer to be able to understand it. And indeed, its clear that you're talking about personal experience, but that doesn't excuse you from trying to back up your answer. You should at least try to provide some reasoning as to why these baths would work in the first place. How would this help with joint pain? –  Ivo Flipse Jul 1 '12 at 5:24
    
If you know what epsom salts are, you wouldn't need reasoning to back them up. There's plenty of info out there. Educate yourself, don't expect to be fed everything on a platter. –  Robin Ashe Jul 1 '12 at 6:12
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