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Cracks, clicks and cricks: Normal or not?

Bookmark and Share "It's hard to differentiate normal noises and symptoms from those that will send you to your physician's office for further investigation," says William Berna, MD, Virtua internal medicine. "Ultimately, if the noise or symptom interrupts daily life, you should consult your physician."

Here's how to tell if your body's noises are normal or if they're sending out an SOS.

Snap, crackle, pop -
Your joints are noisier than a crispy cereal
The cracking you hear occurs when oxygen and nitrogen are released from your joints - or when ligaments move over your bones. Painless cracking is normal and usually nothing to worry about, but when pain accompanies the cracking, it could signal a serious condition like arthritis.

"If you have pain or swelling in the joint area or it's hard to move, you should see your physician," cautions Paul Lanza, DO, Virtua family physician.

"If you also have a fever, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. A fever, combined with joint-pain can signify an acute, inflammatory disorder or infection."

Eating a banana a day could keep your muscle cramps away
Muscles cramp when lactic acid builds up and irritates them, causing them to contract. If your cramps are associated with a change in physical activity and go away by slowly stretching or applying pressure, they are not cause for concern. Help prevent cramps by increasing your water intake and eating potassium-rich foods like avocados, potatoes or bananas.

You should be concerned about muscle cramps if you are taking cholesterol-lowering medication or if the cramps are severe, last a long time, come back frequently or accompany physical activity.

"If you have cramps when walking or if there's a change in skin color or temperature at the cramp location, see your physician immediately," says Dr. Berna. "These symptoms could be a sign of poor circulation."

Your back used to hurt only after heavy lifting - now it hurts all the time
If you can connect your lower back pain with an activity like lifting a heavy object, moving suddenly or sitting in one position for a long time, the back pain is probably normal and can be treated at home.

While bed rest is not recommended, you should stop normal physical activity and apply ice for the first 24 hours to reduce inflammation. After that, you can resume normal physical activity, as tolerated, and apply moist heat. Over-the-counter pain medication may also provide some relief, but shouldn't be taken longer than 48 to 72 hours without consulting your physician.

"If the lower back pain persists; comes on suddenly without a known cause; is accompanied by a fever, numbness or tingling; or extends into your abdomen or legs, see your physician as soon as possible," says Dr. Lanza. "These could be signs of a more serious condition like a herniated disk, kidney stones or aneurism."