When you turn your head, you hear it, like Rice Crispies. This is officially known as “crepitus”. Is it painful? If it is, let’s certainly talk about it. Is it bad? If it’s not painful, then probably not; however, it means something either way. But what is it, anyway? The guide joints (or “facet” joints, pronounced “fah-set”), are floating joints, with fluid in them. Two things that could explain this crepitus: the fluid gets thick and gelatinous and “congeals”, or small pieces of soft joint material are ground loose by movement or trauma. The result is something between the consistency of “Jello” (gelatin) and maybe a “Gummi Bear”. When the joint moves around, this squishes back and forth and sounds like sand or crackling rice crispies. If you put Gelatin in your mouth and squish it back and forth, it sounds like this. If the joints are compressing for some reason, this could increase. If the process is painful, there could be more operating, like loss of joint space or a change in the joint surface (arthritis?). Is it bone on bone? Probably not. But we can look at it and evaluate it, and maybe slow down the process and decrease the pain.
Anyway, what’s in the joint is called “ground substance” and it is literally your joints grinding parts of the joint surface up like your teeth do when you chew. I see this in many patients who have old trauma, old whiplash, or a history of stiff necks and flare ups. And occasionally, it just starts up. Let’s check it out. Not a bad idea. Remember, as far as the mind-body connection is concerned, “knowing about it” is better than “guessing about it”.