Crepitus comes from the Latin for ‘a crackling or rattling sound‘ and it is a medical term that refers to all those little clicks, cracks, pops and grating crunchy noises that can be experienced when we move around.
Crepitus can occur when bones in our joints rub together as a result of damage to the cartilage, to the bone itself as in osteoarthritis, or sometimes when there is damage to an intervertebral disc which could result in the vertebrae rubbing against each other. It is possible to hear these noises, the grating can very often be felt internally and may or may not be associated with pain. An audible sound of crepitus can be one of the symptoms of bone fracture.
It is also possible to have little popping noises occurring in our lungs or soft tissues when there is an abnormal area of air or gas under the skin. This type of crepitus does not concern us here as it tends to occur in various severe conditions that require medical intervention, which is not the remit of the Alexander Technique.
However, the crunches that are experienced in our joints are very relevant to Alexander lessons. If we contract our muscles and increase the tension around our joints with our habits of contracting down into ourselves with mis-use, then crepitus is more likely to occur. Also, when we hear those crunchings, they can be a useful reminder and warning that we need to allow our muscles to unwind and free up. If crepitus is persistent or severe, it may be wise to seek a medical diagnosis as to the cause.
When we can learn how to allow our musculature to be more elastic and freely lengthening, it is possible to reduce the pressure around our joints so that the bones are less pushed together. This process can allow the joints to move more freely, which often reduces the crepitus and helps us to avoid creating further damage to our bones and joints.