Is Your Elbow Cracking? Find Out Why

Tennis Elbow? Popping and Push-Ups? Why is your elbow cracking?

The elbow does a lot of work—highly specialized work—and we rely on it extensively. Its unique three-bone structure gives it a wide range of motion most joints don’t have. Whether you’re tossing a ball, lifting weights, shooting hoops, or swimming, the elbow is involved.

A doctor examines a patient’s elbow.

The elbow’s special structure allows it to move in countless directions. As such, the cartilage and ligaments can be put under a lot of stress and strain, especially for athletes and those with active lifestyles. This can injure or even damage the elbow, sometimes causing clicking and popping sounds.

When your elbow starts complaining with pops and clicks, you should listen. It’s trying to tell you something. It could mean something as simple as “Slow down!” or as serious as “Which way to the hospital?”

Serious emergencies are easy to assess—broken elbows and dislocations are hard to ignore. But minor strains, chronic pain, or problems that worsen over time, can be elusive. So, paying attention early is crucial.

Why Does My Elbow Pop When I Do Push-Ups?

If your elbow pops while doing push-ups, it’s usually because the ligament that connects the muscle to the bone is sliding back and forth over the joint with each motion of the push-up. Typically, it’s not a big deal, according to Livestrong.org.

The National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Biotechnology Information recommends rest and analgesics, and, for more serious cases, a steroidal treatment may be appropriate. If your elbow is tender, swollen and achy, and doesn’t respond to ice packs or doctor-approved pain relievers, it’s time to see a professional like the specialists at Town Center Orthopaedics.

3 More Reasons for Clicking Elbows

For most people, there are four more often-cited causes of strange noises like clicks, pops, and snaps coming from the elbow:

  1. Loose BodyA small bone or hardened cartilage fragment in the joint, causing the elbow to pop occasionally.

  2. ArthritisCaused by a weakening or damage to the cartilage around a joint.

  3. PlicaA “plica” is a band of thick tissue that helps connect a joint. If this tissue becomes inflamed in the elbow, it can cause popping.

5 Tricks to Silence the Popping

While a little pop here and there is usually nothing to sweat over, there are some easy tips that Livestrong.org recommends to quiet things down.

1. Proper warm-up

Getting your body ready for exercise is an important aspect of any workout. It prepares your body for what’s to come, gets your heart going, increases oxygen and warms the muscles—and tendons. Just a few minutes can make a difference.

2. Stretch it out

Try a gentle stretching of the biceps and triceps. Find one that works for you.

3. Mix it up a little

Try placing your hands in a different spot as you do your push-ups. Perhaps wider. Perhaps lower. Sometimes repositioning your hands might be just enough to realign those tendons and give you a smooth workout.

4. Stop at the pop

If you notice that your elbow pops every time you reach a certain point in your push-up, stop there. A shorter range of motion might be just what you need to stop the pop.

5. Modify

Reduce the amount of pressure the push-up places on your elbow by modifying the exercise. Starting a push-up with your arms on a bench provides a great workout and may prevent that tendon from sliding around. Or on-your-knees push-ups could do the trick.

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When should I be concerned?

For emergencies, it will be obvious when you need a doctor. For instance, what if you cannot move your elbow? If the pain will not subside? If it’s tender to the touch? Call your doctor.

For chronic pain or injuries that occur over time, that also calls for a trip to the doctor’s office.

At Town Center Orthopaedics, we have excellent medical providers who know just what to do. Our dedicated and highly skilled staff of orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine specialists is ready to diagnose your condition, with cutting-edge treatments that provide all patients with the best outcomes to get you back in the game again.

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TCO provides patients with orthopedic problems the trusted resources and patient-centered advice they need to Feel Better. Move Better. Be Better.