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Why Do Baby Joints Pop and Crack?

One day, you’re playing with your adorable baby, and all of the sudden you hear a concerning popping noise. You instantly wonder if you’ve hurt them.

Did you pull something out of the socket? Maybe, but chances are that your little one is just fine. In fact, baby joints popping and cracking can be completely normal!

mother daughter

What Makes Baby Joints Pop And Crack

Because babies are so small and still developing, they are able to move their joints in ways that most people can’t. This puts a bit of pressure on the tendon, which results in a cracking or popping sound.

Most children outgrow this when they get older. Children that remain flexible might not. Either way, it’s not always a cause for concern. 

As Your Child Grows, They Might Pop A Bit More

When the body grows, it doesn’t always grow in perfect unison. That means that tendons might be too short as they slowly catch up to the rest of the body.

The pressure on those tendons will create more popping and cracking as your little one’s body balances out. This is why most people assume that popping is a sign of a growth spurt. 

Your Baby Probably Doesn’t Notice

If your little one is unaware that they are popping every time that you pick them up, it’s because it doesn’t hurt. When your child isn’t in physical pain, it’s usually not a cause for concern. 

Cracking Is Normal For Certain Joints

As your baby grows, you’ll notice that certain joints crack more than others.

That’s because these are actually normal places to hear popping joints in babies. It’s particularly common, and normal, to hear popping in the shoulders, knees, wrists, and elbows. 

It Will Come And Go

In most cases, you’ll notice that the popping noise will come and go. For example, you may hear the noise when you pick your little one up for several weeks. Then, it will suddenly be gone.

Four weeks later, the popping may mysteriously appear again. This is simply because your little one is growing. It is nothing to be concerned about. 

Different Rules Apply To Babies Regarding Popping

The most common reason that this concerns us is that, as adults, we learn that it could be a signal that something is wrong. This is commonly seen in people that are prone to arthritis.

We were all taught that it’s bad to pop our knuckles, even though this belief has now been proven to be an old wive’s tale. (There’s no science to back it up.)

Popping in joints usually just means that we adults need to be more active to keep our joints lubricated. However, this doesn’t apply to babies.

It’s important to remember that as your little one continues to grow. You’ll hear so much popping, you might get concerned, but there is no need to be. 

When You Should Be Concerned

There are times when popping and cracking are normal. Over time, you simply get used to hearing your baby’s shoulders pop when you pick them up. However, there are times when you should be concerned as well. 

Cracking In The Hips Is Not Always Normal

If you hear a clicking noise or cracking in your baby’s hips, you should call your pediatrician. You can also contact an orthopedic surgeon.

While there may be cases in which this is considered normal, it’s worth getting checked out. Your baby could have a dislocated hip or their femur might not be in the proper place.

An X-ray can be taken and used to determine whether there is something wrong with your little one. 

Dislocated Elbows And Shoulders

Dislocated elbows and shoulders are common in young children. These are often the result of grabbing a child by the arm. For example, if your little one attempts to run into the street, you simply grab them and pull them back.

You can easily pop them back into place, but it’s best to consult a pediatrician and have a doctor do this. Signs of dislocated elbows and shoulders include: 

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Difficult time moving the joint in a normal way
  • Redness

If you hear a crack that is followed by these symptoms after a fall, grabbing your little one, etc. it’s important to contact your pediatrician. 

Keep In Mind That Some Children Can Handle Pain Really Well

If your little one is obviously in pain, that’s a sign that something is wrong. However, some children are exceptional at handling pain.

That means that it’s not always the best indicator of when something is wrong. In addition to looking for signs that your child is in pain, you should also look for other symptoms of a problem. 

For example, my daughter broke her collarbone when she was two. She fell off of a ride-on toy and landed in the perfect position to snap her collarbone. She screamed at first and then settled down.

We thought it had just scared her. There was no other sign of pain, except for when she would move her arm into a certain position. That’s why we took her to the doctor and discovered that the bone was broken. 

Always Call Your Pediatrician If You’re Concerned 

While there might not be a reason to be concerned, it’s always a great idea to give your doctor a call to double-check. Remember, calling your doctor when there’s no need to is better than not calling them when something is wrong. 

In Conclusion

When you first hear your baby’s joints pop or crack, it can be concerning. It’s perfectly normal to hear a popping noise from the elbows, wrists, knees, or shoulders. If you’re still concerned, contact your doctor. 

Medical Disclaimer. All content and media on the MomInformed Website is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.