Weird Bodily Sounds and What They Mean
Now and again, at unanticipated moments, our body can make all kinds of weird and abnormal sounds. At best, these make us raise an eyebrow and continue on our day. At worst it can make us very scared. No doubt you know some of these sounds, the joint clicks, the jaw 'knacks'.
All these sounds, and others, just appear out of nowhere. However, these sounds can also be our body's way of signaling us that something is wrong. In order to understand once and for all, we've brought you 10 of the most common unexplained sounds our body makes, and when there is cause to see a doctor.
1.Popping or cracking sounds from the knees and ankles.
These sounds can suddenly appear as we stretch our legs or fold them in a sharp movement in preparation for walking or sitting. There are 3 different reasons for these, and they're usually natural: The tendons may latch on to the joints during movement, the explosion of small 'air' bubbles caught inside the liquid between the joints or a small deviation of the joints from their location.
As we get older, these sounds will appear in high frequency, as our joints and cartilage naturally get worn out. However, as long as these appear without pain, it does not indicate a medical problem. In order to alleviate the reoccurence of this phenomenon, simple strechting exercises can be performed that will 'grease' the knee and ankle joints.
When to see a doctor: If these sounds come with pain, swelling or a sense of the joints 'locking in place', they made indicate the beginning of arthritis, damaged tendons or even a torn meniscus in the knee.
2. Growling and gurgling sounds from the stomach
"My stomach is growling, it must be time to eat" - this will be the first thought jumping into our head when our stomach starts making weird noises. Usually these sounds are caused between meals when the digestive system goes through a series of intense cramps, often loud ones, which are getting rid of the unwanted materials accumulated in the stomach, making room for new food.
That said, these sounds do not always indicate hunger. The noises may point to the digestive system encountering difficulties in dismantling certain foods (such as bran-rich food). In other cases, drinking liquids will cause gurgling sounds as they pass through the digestive system. So unless you feel hungry, don't hurry to the fridge to get rid of these sounds. In addition, if you are on your way to something important and are worried about embarassing gurgling sounds, avoid carbonated drinks and foods that cause gas such as certain vegetables, process carbs and dairy products.
When to see a doctor: In some cases, when these sounds come with a bloating sensation and stomach-aches, and especially if you hear a watery sound when pressing on the stomach, it's advised to check this with a doctor. In rare cases, these sounds may indicate the bowls over-contracting or maybe even blocked (a situation that requires surgery).
3. Buzzing, ringing and humming in the ears
Sometimes, without being ready for it, a high and lasting beep or buzzing will appear in our ears. After a few seconds or minutes it will just disappear. This sound, which may be alarming, is called tinnitus.
The source of the sound isn't related to anything external, but is created within our brain. We hear it when the brain identify electrical signals as sounds. The reason may come from damage to the outer ear (caused at times by spending too long in a very noisy environment), pressure and tension, a lack in sleeping hours and an overdose of caffeine.
That is why a change of lifestyle - using earplugs, reducing our caffeine consumption and a good night's sleep may reduce these phenomena. Usually when the buzzing comes only rarely, it does not indicate any disease or actual damage.
When to see a doctor: If you feel the tinnitus for a long time, at a loud volume and in one ear, this could be a symptom of an infection or more significant damage to the hearing system. If needed, hearing aids or surgery may help.
4. Cracking or clicking sounds from the shoulder
While we lift, turn or move our arm forward, we may hear a clicking noise from the shoulder. When this sound comes without pain, it shouldn't bother you. It comes as a result of rubbing between the swiveling muscle and the shoulder joint, and it most appears naturally as part of getting older.
That said, repetitive and strained lifting of the arm, such as throing a ball or taking stuff off shelves, may cause inflammation in the tendon or a rip in the cartilage. The symptoms will still sound the same, only pain will be involved.
When to see a doctor: When the sounds are accompanied by pain, especially if the source of the pain is deep within the shoulder joint, then it is highly advisable to go see an orthopedic expert. There are a host of different inflammations types that can appear in the shoulder joint and the tendons or there could be a rip of the cartilage or muscles. Physiotherapy for the various shoulder muscles may alleviate this pain and noises.
5. Clicking or other sounds from the jaw
Between our jaws there lies a disc made from fibers of bone tissue. This disk slides between the jaws and helps them open smoothly. Sometimes, the fibers of the disc may change their shape, especially if they have been stretch too much. In such a case, the disc might get a concave shape that wil cause disruption when we open our mouth. The lower jaw will move on its concave parts, deviate from its natural track and will not sit exactly under the upper jaw. This will cause the click and noises you hear.
Don't worry, if this is rare for you, then you probably don't have a problem, and it may indicate a momentary effort by the jaw.
When to see a Doctor: If, together with these sounds, you are unable to open or close the mouth all the way, or if the sounds are very loud and sharp, you have probably over-extended the disc fibers. These sounds may also happen if you over-lock your jaw at night (usually caused by mental stress). Since the fibers aren't elastic, they cannot go back to their normal place. It is very advisable to see a dentist at this time.
6. Beeping or cracking noise while turning your upper body
When a sharp turning motion occures in the upper body, there may come out a beeping noise. Don't panic, your body isn't falling apart - this is a normal phenomenon that occurs when air leaves the body - or when the air in the lungs or the stomach passes through narrow air passageways. There is no need to change the exercise routine or to stop those exercises after those sounds are heard.
When to see a doctor: If during these turning motions you hear the beeps AND have trouble breathing, you may be suffering from any one of a host of breathing problems. For those with asthma, for instance, these kinds of movements are not recommended.
7. A clicking or cracking from the elbow
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As you can tell from the previous items on this list, many of our joints tend to make sounds and noises from their constant rubbing against each other, especially when under stress. So 'mechanical' problems may arise and the elbow's behavior is no different.
However, besides the wearing out of the elbow, which may cause these sounds, there are various disorders and syndromes that may cause an elbow to thicken and become stiff, and so ever increase the noises and sounds.
When to see a doctor: If, while moving your elbow, these sounds come with pain or if there is a feeling that the elbow gets 'locked' in place, it's time to go see a doctor. This could mean an inflammation of cartilage or the elbow's nerves.
8. A loud thundering during sleep
Similar to tinnitus, this is an internal beeping created by the brain and perceived as if by the ears. There is another phenomenon, much scarier, which occures in the brain and is called "exploded head syndrome". This happens during deep sleep, when you suddenly hear a very strong thundering noise, which causes you to wake up in a panic. People have described this phenomenon as a pistol shot, an explosion, a firework going off or even a very loud clapping. This may be scary, but it isn't harmful and we still don't know why it happens.
One theory is, as the body gets ready for sleep, the brainstem is responsible for shutting down the various brain systems, such as the hearing, visual and motor nerves. When something in this process goes wrong, all the systems shut at once, which causes the sudden noise in our head. This phenomenon isn't common, but it happens more to people of ages 50 and up than to younger folks. Many claim this is mainly cause by stress, tension and a lack of sleep hours.
9. Beeping while coughing
When our airways are blocked - whether due to infection, allergy or by a shortness of breath - the air inside them gets compacted, and so when we breath out hard, such as during a cough, this sound is created. In any case, this sound must be checked because in most cases it is abnormal and unnatural. If you suffer this kind of cough for more than 4 weeks (for instance, after a bad cold) and it shows no signs of improving, you may suffer from one of the aforementioned conditions which may cause pnemonia or asthma.
10. Hearing your heartbeat in your ears
If during the day, or close to sleeping time, you've felt the beating or your heart right inside your ears, you may need to cut down on your caffeine intake or go on a relaxing vacation. This phenomenon of hearing your hearbeat in your ears occurs when the heart rythem or blood pressure grow stronger or faster - and these lead to the blood flow being stronger and louder. Drinking alcohol or caffeine,consuming sweets or have an anxious state of mind - may raise the heart beat and blood pressure.
When to see a doctor: If this happens often, it may be a sign that you are suffering from problems in blood flow - one of the risk factors for a heart condition. In other cases it may be a sign for pressure in the spine fluid, which can lead to very serious conditions or even blindness.