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Popping and Grinding

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by harryhaller, Feb 27, 2017.

  1. harryhaller

    harryhaller New Member

    Hi, I am new here. I just want to ask - how does TMS cause audible sounds, like excessive popping or grinding sounds? And how can I think about them that does not undermine my belief in the diagnosis?

    I started having neck pain in 2014. At the end of October, 2016 I found Sarno, and things have been better since then.

    At least, the pain does not weigh on me in the same way as it used to, as a feeling of doom and decay. But still it is there. By January it seemed like I had made lots of progress, and there were long periods of time when I even forgot about my neck entirely. But February has not been as good. I feel like I am not getting any better, and the pain still intrudes quite frequently. Re-reading Sarno's books has gotten boring. Unlike earlier, when I had a compulsion to read about TMS, either online or in books, now I have trouble making myself do it.

    In particular, I have gotten into a pattern where tension seems to build, and then a small movement causes an intense - and to be honest, very enjoyable - crack. Then the tension is gone for a while, only slowly building until the next crack. I am not really consciously cracking my neck, and sometimes it seems to happen accidentally, but maybe I have learned some subtle movements that cause it to happen. I had this at other times during my neck pain odyssey, before Sarno. But it has been very frequent recently. My neck never cracked before the pain began. What is this cracking doing? Is it really moving a joint and releasing a muscle, or is this some kind of learned conditioning, where the crack causes my brain to stop the pain for a bit, and where I am really moving in a way that my mind knows will cause joint cavitation?

    Another thing is that I have a very unpleasant grinding sound and feeling when I move my neck. If I rotate my head in circles, something that I have a bad feeling about doing, it is grinding constantly. Often normal movements of my head cause a very unpleasant kind of crunch. I am pretty sure I did not have this before the pain began. These sounds objectively exist (other people have heard them), and they seem to undermine my belief in TMS. Even if I consciously think of my problem as a psychological one, I find myself coming back to images of stuck joints pulling on muscles and irritating them, etc. Could it be that sub-conscious fear of certain movements over the course of several years has caused some muscle fibers to become unused and rigid, or for joints or tendons to form adhesions, etc? How can I think about this to solve the problem?
  2. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Harry,

    Hopefully, someone with medical or physiological knowledge of the human body can explain to you why we experience the popping and grinding. I can only speak from experience. I had these sensations when I had fibromyalgia, and when I have an occasional relapse they return. To me, they are part of the array of symptoms that are TMS, and aren't anything to worry about. In my experience, they are not indicative of a structural problem. Perhaps they occur with the muscle tension of TMS. They can be very distracting, but that is the purpose of TMS, so they are effective at getting and holding our attention. My advice is to not focus on them. Part of TMS recovery for me has been shifting my attention away from the body. Focus on people and things outside yourself. Focus on life and living.

    Best wishes.......
    eskimoeskimo and Tennis Tom like this.
  3. Huckleberry

    Huckleberry Well known member

    I don't think you really need to be asking if TMS causes popping/grinding sounds. The body will often make all manner of noises that whilst may not be thought to be normal as such are nonetheless benign and totally unproblematic.

    The problem really is that we all too easily fall into the trap of thinking that correlation equals causation. The reality in fact is that our bodies, joints etc can make all manner of noises but this doesn't necessarily mean they have anything whatsoever to do with the pain we are feeling.

    Here is something to consider. Chiropractors thrive on the placebo of the sound of popping and cracking our bodies. All it is is air being released from joint sockets BUT they tell us it is tension etc being released and if we believe this and buy into their narrative miraculously we feel better. Now, the reverse is also true. We can easily nocebo ourselves into believing that our pain must be structural as it is accompanied by these sounds of popping and grinding. This is even worse if we do like you mention and actually visualise bone on bone and tendons stretching etc. Basically, the pain is dictating what the sounds mean to you. You are in pain and fearful therefore the sounds are ominous to you. If you were receptive to chiropractic adjustments and on a table paying £40 to be pulled around they would probably make you feel like it was money well spent.

    Just a thought. :)
    Tennis Tom, Ellen and MindBodyPT like this.
  4. MindBodyPT

    MindBodyPT Beloved Grand Eagle

    As a PT I get tons of questions about this...people always concerned about popping and cracking and such. In general these are just another variant of "normal abnormalities" and don't mean much of anything! I have lots of joints that like to pop but I don't think it's anything more than air release, tendons moving around, etc. no correlation with pain at all. I wouldn't over analyze this. It could be any of the above (tight muscles or tendons etc) but the best thing you could do is try to ignore it.
    eskimoeskimo likes this.
  5. eskimoeskimo

    eskimoeskimo Well known member

    My neck grinds and pops in exactly the way you describe harry, and it's caused me a lot of the same concerns but, I think, needlessly. It's tempting to think the noises etc are scary bone and joint things, because the noises are so 'hard' and 'physical.' And also it's tough to not want to force that release because (associative conditioning or not) the pain symptoms do seem to correlate with more popping and grinding and less with less. And the few times when I've had a major, total evaporation on neck pain it also came with a very noticeable, physical 'releasing' of all that tightness and even sometimes on audible clicking release. So that makes it extra tough to not try to force that same release. But I really think it's just harmless muscle stuff. My pain used to be in the upper back and it would pop and the pain would 'release' (for a second). I no longer have pain in the upper back, but I can still make it do that poppy thing and it doesn't bother me. I've noticed a lot of people, who are not in pain, have the same pops and grinds, particularly in the neck. If you can reassure/convince yourself that it's just muscle stuff, maybe this can serve as a helpful reminder that you're just dealing with TMS. Use the popping and grinding as a reminder that this is just non-dangerous non-damaging muscle stuff, caused by some mild oxygen deprivation. You're not falling apart! Your bones aren't grinding against each other! It's like you have a charlie horse, or a headache in your neck. It can hurt, badly even, but it's not dangerous and leaves no residual damage.
    Ellen likes this.
  6. RichieRich

    RichieRich Well known member


    I'm in agreement with eskimoeskimo. If you can convince yourself that it's not dangerous or damaging, the noises will abate. I swore my neck and shoulder were crunchy as popcorn when I was at my worst. Now, I don't even notice it, but if I roll my shoulders I can kind of hear it still. I don't think about it anymore and my shoulder feels fine.
    eskimoeskimo and MindBodyPT like this.
  7. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    If it's TMS/psychosomatic--and if you found your way here, it likely is TMS--no one comes here first. Those sounds you hear are likely normal body joint sounds, "CREPITUS", harmless, like when you crack your knuckles. We have been incorrectly conditioned by old wives tales, the collective meme, that these are the sounds of "damage", when they are normal--think of them as joint farts. "Adhesions" have to do with surgery and muscles that glue themselves together incorrectly--I don't know if that can really happen--stay away from surgeons if you can.

    Muscles can become unused due to fear of moving them--that's called "atrophy"--the good news is that after a couple of weeks of use they regain their tone. You don't lose muscle fibers, they just shrink from lack of use. You build new muscle fibers by working the muscles--that's what weight lifters do--once you create those new muscle fibers, you don't lose them. They may atrophy, shrink, due to lack of use--hence "use it or lose it".

    Your getting "bored" reading the TMS BOOKS, is your sub-C playing tricks on you--not wanting to lose you as a valued client--and all the kickbacks it gets from the chiros and quacks it keeps sending you to, searching for solutions to your chronic pain riddle. Your TMS is doing it's job of distraction from dealing with the emotional causes of your pain, chasing the structural symptoms instead. Keep reading the books, the answers are all in them.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2017
    eskimoeskimo likes this.
  8. balto

    balto Beloved Grand Eagle

    My knees made grinding noise for years. My hips make clicking noise every time I raise and lower my legs. I love to crack my neck. I do it on purpose because it made me feel relax. It also make grinding sound when I move my head from side to side. I don't have any paint symptoms.
  9. Steve Ozanich

    Steve Ozanich TMS Consultant

    Noises don't cause pain.

    Balto loves to crack his neck, I love to crack a beer and a joke.
    balto and Tennis Tom like this.
  10. harryhaller

    harryhaller New Member

    Thanks a lot for the answers, folks. Of course, I don't really care about the noises, I only care about them as far as it relates to my pain. I agree, Balto, there's nothing like a nice neck crack :) If only it could come without the slowly gathering pain in between.

    Of course I made my rounds with the chiropractors, like everyone else, before I found Sarno. Not anymore though. I do believe the TMS theory. To be honest, I basically knew my pain was generated psychologically even before I heard of TMS. Everyone told me that. My girlfriend at the time would say, with a sigh "it's all in your head." I agreed! I just didn't have a way to understand how it was "in my head" or what to do about it. I think I even knew, deep down, that I was using the pain to escape from things that used to bother me. But still, even though it is much better than it was in the darkest times, I am in the pain cycle. I feel that I somehow opened this door, and now I don't know to shut it.

    Steve, I read your book. Nice book! One thing I have been wrestling with. What exactly does it mean to "think psychological", which every TMS therapist/writer says? I am a straight line thinker. I cannot understand vague terms like that, and I have never seen a real example of what it means. It seems to me that I have multiple channels in my mind, where I am thinking of different things at once. So, for instance, I am thinking about practical problems in life, whatever is going on at the moment, but on another level I am feeling the pain, noticing the pain. I have tried, when I notice that I am feeling the pain, to then recall "what was I just thinking?" And then notice it, thinking in words. Is this right? How do I "think psychological", when I am already doing that - it is just that another mental channel is taken up by pain?
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2017
  11. balto

    balto Beloved Grand Eagle

    Humor is one of the best weapon against many ills we have. Norman Vincent Peale, the author of "The Power of Positive Thinking" were able to cure himself of some "incurable" disease" using humor. Positive emotions somehow canceled out the effect of all those negative emotions.
  12. Steve Ozanich

    Steve Ozanich TMS Consultant

    "Thinking psychologically" means that when you get a pain/symptom, to never think of it as being from the structure of your body, but rather when the symptom pops up to only think about what is going on in your mind. It's not as much about what you were thinking but what you weren't feeling. Thinking is the problem not the cure.

    "God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh." Voltaire
    Tennis Tom likes this.
  13. harryhaller

    harryhaller New Member

    So, I should think about what was going on in my mind when I noticed the pain (which would normally be some kind of thoughts)? I.e. "I feel the pain - what was I just thinking? Oh right, I was worrying that my car would get towed." (or something like that). Or try to guess what emotion I ought to have been feeling, but wasn't?

    Although I feel the pain in my body and cannot help but recognize that fact, I have long ago abandoned any doubt that my mild disk bulge was not to blame. If "thinking psychologically" isn't thinking, but rather feeling, what am I supposed to feel? And how can I make myself feel something that I currently do not?
  14. chepolina

    chepolina Peer Supporter

    When I had my knee pain it would provide great relief to "pop" it. Just like you described, the "tension" in my knee would build up and I would feel like I need to release it. I realized at some point that "popping" the knee was doing nothing b/c the tension just kept coming back. So I just reminded myself that my knee had no injury and I need to forget it. And I just kept using it and the pain went away.
    Tennis Tom likes this.
  15. Betsy4ever

    Betsy4ever New Member

    Are you sure its TMS or bones causing that fearful sound. Hope things will change for us all positively....
  16. chepolina

    chepolina Peer Supporter

    I don't think that it is TMS causing the popping sound. I also know it is not a disease causing the popping sound. I've had it in my knees my entire life, it never hurt. Not sure what's making the noise, whether it's the joints or bone. I do know however that it is not a sign of disease or degeneration.
    I've realized that we don't pay attention to normal cracking and popping sounds in our body if that body part does not hurt. But if it ever starts hurting - then we suddenly notice all these normal things and prescribe them to be a part of a problem - "confirmation bias" - we look for signs to support our conclusion and ignore other opposing yet equally logical arguments.

    Instead turn the "confirmation bias" in your favor - look for signs of why these popping noises are NOT a problem. Look for reasons why there is NOT something wrong with your foot/back/knee/shoulder/wrist. Make the system work in YOUR favor. Outsmart the mechanism. For ex., don't other parts of your body randomly pop and crack? Little joint noises here and there - and those don't hurt. So why would this one be any different.
  17. pspa

    pspa Well known member

    Neck noises are a huge issue for me. And yes the real issue is not the noises, in all reasonable likelihood they are benign, but rather the association the mind makes with pain and the resulting fear cycle. The prior post is right on. Easier said than done of course for a person with ocd.
  18. chepolina

    chepolina Peer Supporter

    Agreed. These feelings can be scary. I have a sensation in my dominant right wrist when I move it a certain way that feels like almost grinding or bumpy popping.
    Now, when this wrist hurt like crazy that popping feeling had me convinced that there is something structurally wrong. It was a very sharp pain that would stop me in my tracts and the feeling of that grinding was very distinct.

    I got diagnosed with a ganglionic cyst.. having had it removed the symptoms still returned.

    When the symptoms later returned I figured the cyst grew again and was now pressing on my tendons and crushing them. Awful thoughts. I tried acupuncture and weird pressure bone adjustment and wrist braces. Minor relief.

    The wrist only healed once I dealt with it as TMS.

    I still feel that same popping sensation though! Because that feeling isn't the problem. There's no more pain. It's just a normal body movement sounds.
    Libelula likes this.
  19. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

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