Does it seem like you’re breaking your baby every time you pick her up?
How come your little one’s joints make all these cracking, popping, clicking, or creaking sounds?
Noisy joints and bones are commonly thought to be the domain of the elderly – most definitely not something that affects babies!
So, it’s no surprise most parents are concerned when they hear and feel their baby’s joint crack!
So, without further ado, let’s get cracking, and explore why your baby’s joints are so noisy.
Is It Normal For My Baby’s Joints To Crack?
Rest assured. In most cases, this type of sound (called crepitus, by the way) is simply a sign of your baby’s growing skeleton. And there is not much that can be done to prevent it.
Unless the noise comes from the hips and the baby is in pain. At that point, you need to raise it immediately with your baby’s doctor.
1. Rapid Growth In Early Days
During the first two years of life, babies undergo tremendous changes. Their bodies and brains are rapidly developing.
Imagine that a healthy baby’s birth weight doubles by six months and triples by the time they turn one.
So is their brain.
Upon birth, a baby’s brain is a third the size of an adult’s, and within three months, it will be half the size! Those are pretty impressive figures.
To accommodate this rapid growth of their bodies, the baby’s bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons must be soft, bendy, and stretchy.
This is why babies are able to do splits, suck on their toes, and do many other tricks with their super flexible bodies.
Let’s look closer at each of these stretchy skeletal components.
1.1 Flexible Bones
Babies are born with around 300 bones. This is about 94 more bones than an adult!
Additionally, their bones are, in fact, made of cartilage – a soft and stretchy tissue that will naturally harden over time.
During the course of a baby’s development, many of her small bones fuse together and begin to become rigid.
However, the fact is, these short and soft bones make a baby’s skeletal system really flexible and bendy. This is important during birth, as the baby has to squeeze through a very narrow birth canal.
The same applies to the baby’s joints. They are incredibly lax. In other words, they are very elastic and flexible to accommodate the baby’s continuously growing body parts.
1.2 Elastic joints
Now let’s talk about joints.
So, joints are areas where two or more bones make contact.
The great majority of joints are mobile, and their main task is to enable bones to move.
Joints consist of ligaments and tendons (amongst other elements). And they play a crucial role in stabilizing the skeleton and facilitating body movement.
Ligaments are elastic bands of connective tissue that support the joint and limit its movement. They also connect bones together.
Tendons are another type of elastic tissue that helps joints to control movement. They connect muscles to bones.
In summary, babies have extremely flexible bones, joints, and ligaments, allowing for a broader range of motion than adults.
This flexibility will start to decline from around 10 years of age.
Now, all this information was merely an introduction to help you understand why a baby’s joints make sounds.
So, moving on to the main point of this post…
2. The four reasons why babies’ joints crack.
- Your baby’s joints are cracking sounding due to their super flexible skeletal system, which allows them to grow fast. Continuous growth may cause tendons and joints to become more stressed. This may result in cracking sounds during your baby’s movements.
- Furthermore, your baby’s joints may be emitting clicking sounds during episodes of growth sprouts. An intense period of growth can alter the position of ligaments in relation to the joints. In addition, not all components grow equally or at the same rate. So, the cracking sounds just indicate the re-adjustment of the growing body.
- Thirdly, pregnancy hormones may contribute to your baby’s joint clicking. During pregnancy, the mother produces relaxin and progesterone. The combined actions of both of these hormones loosen the ligaments to accommodate the growing uterus and expanding body. Also, these hormones may be passed on to the baby, causing the baby’s ligaments to become loose. Therefore, the baby may emit sounds from her joints.
Parents should not be concerned about any of the above reasons. There is no stopping the joints from making sounds, and they are totally normal!
- Fourthly, the baby’s joint may make a sound because of a medical condition. However, noisy joints are only one of the many symptoms that could mean there is a problem. So, watch out for any additional worrying signs, such as joint pain, swelling, reduced mobility, etc. And, needless to say, get in touch with your baby’s doctor if your little one experiences any of those! The most common health conditions associated with noisy joints are congenital hip dislocation, hypermobility, or juvenile arthritis. I will elaborate briefly on each of these points in point 4.
3. When Can I Hear Cracking Sound
Normally, the cracking noise may appear in the baby’s spine, shoulders, wrists, elbows, ankles, and knees. You can hear and feel it when you pick up your baby or lift her leg during a nappy change.
Sometimes, you can also hear popping noises in your growing bump during the last trimester of pregnancy. That’s because babies tend to be very wriggly and like to move around. So, the clicking sound coming from your bump means your little one is trying to stretch or change the position. In a tight uterus, this can be a challenge.
4. When should I be Worried About The Popping Sound of Baby’s Joints?
However, clicking joints may be an early sign that something is wrong and requires medical attention.
4.1 Congenital Hip Dislocation
Congenital Hip Dislocation, also known as hip dysplasia, is an abnormal hip joint developed during early pregnancy.
A dislocation occurs when a ball joint slips out of its socket with movement.
Since this condition may not show any symptoms, babies are routinely screened for dysplasia during the first year.
The test involves a physical exam of the baby’s hips and listening for clicking or clunking sounds, which may indicate dislocation of the joint from a socket.
Other symptoms include that one leg appears to be shorter than the other one, limited range of movement, delays in reaching gross motor skills.
The condition is not uncommon, primarily affecting girls. That’s because their ligaments are more flexible than those of boys.
Although it cannot be prevented, the risk of developing hip dislocation is higher in the following cases:
- In babies presented in breech position,
- When there is a family history of hip dysplasia,
- If the baby is large during pregnancy, resulting in dislocation of the joint during baby movement in the womb.
If the condition is diagnosed early, it can be successfully treated with a Pavlik harness. In more severe cases, surgery may be required to fix the joints.
If Your Baby has a Dislocated Joint – First Aid Training – St John Ambulance
4.2 Hypermobility syndrome
Hypermobility syndrome is a condition affecting connective tissues throughout the body. Thus, not only joints, ligaments, and tendons, but also the digestive tract, heart, and eyes.
Due to excessive laxity, the connective tissue is more flexible than expected.
The primary symptom is joint pain, most commonly in the ankle or knee.
As a result, the baby may experience difficulty reaching milestones, such as rolling and sitting or crawling, joint pain and dislocation, or the tendency to injury. Once they get older, they may struggle with standing or walking and generally have poor posture and low muscle tone. Also, they may have trouble developing fine motor skills, such as writing.
There is also a whole range of complications related to other connective tissues. They may affect heart function (Marfan Syndrome), cause bowel or bladder issues, or stretchy skin (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome).
So, again, hypermobility syndrome must be diagnosed as soon as possible. Especially, when except for the popping sounds emitting from joints, your baby experiences any of the above symptoms. There is no cure for it. However, with the appropriate treatment, the condition can be effectively managed.
4.3 Juvenile arthritis
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is a long-term chronic, autoimmune disease. It means that the body’s immune system fights its own healthy cells instead of bacteria and viruses. It results in pain, swelling, and stiffness in a baby’s joints, making it difficult for her to move freely.
So, if your baby experiences swollen joints for more than 6 weeks, she may have juvenile arthritis.
In order to keep your baby’s quality of life and function, it is imperative to diagnose it early.
Although there is no cure for juvenile arthritis, the treatment focuses on managing the symptoms.
It may involve medication slowing down the progression of the disease, relieving pain, and helping joints to function normally.
5. Final Few Lines
Although clicking and popping joints in your baby can be concerning at first, I hope this post puts your mind at ease.
It is fairly common for babies to experience this, so there is nothing to worry about.
It is a natural sign that your baby is growing fast, which means the position of tendons and ligaments needs to be constantly adjusted to the joints.
In case your baby experiences pain in joints, swelling, difficulty moving, joint dislocation, or delays in learning motor skills, you need to see a doctor. These symptoms may indicate some health issues (such as hip dislocation, hypermobility, or juvenile arthritis) that will require medical treatment.
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