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Arthritis and Rheumatism

Could an Car Accident Cause Crepitus in the Neck?

03/12/2008

Question:

I am 47 year-old female. I was the victim of a rear-end accident 3 months ago. I immediately saw an emergency room physician, but one month after the accident I saw an orthopedist because my pain had not gone away. He said I had little arthritis I had in my neck. I told him I didn`t realize I had any, as I never had neck pain before. Now I have a lot of noise when I move my neck, and when I commented on it to the orthopedist last week (after 6 weeks of physical therapy), the orthopedist said the noise and grating sensation are unrelated to the accident. He thinks I`m only noticing the noise because I`ve been focused on my neck since the accident. I`m very certain I never had this noise before the accident. How likely is it that the accident had nothing to do with this noise? I`m finding it very disconcerting and am worried it will get worse or develop in to a more painful condition.

Answer:

Crepitus is the crackling noise that occurs when two surfaces rub together. It may occur when bone moves against bone or cartilage. Popping or cracking noises from a joint or joint region may occur if the surface tension of synovial fluid is overcome (think of "cracking" your knuckles) or if ligamentous "snapping." Crepitus from a joint may suggest an arthritis process. Alternative noises may not necessarily suggest progressive joint damage. For instance, there is no definitive evidence that "cracking" knuckles leads to a quicker onset of osteoarthritis.

This forum is unable to provide an opinion as to whether or not your crepitus is related to your accident.

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Response by:

Raymond  Hong, MD, MBA, FACR Raymond Hong, MD, MBA, FACR
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University