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My Elbow Pops When I Do Push-Ups

author image Ryn Gargulinski
Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated books, "Bony Yoga" and "Rats Incredible." She holds a Master of Arts in English literature and folklore and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing with a French minor from Brooklyn College.
My Elbow Pops When I Do Push-Ups
Middle aged woman doing push ups outdoors. Photo Credit hammondovi/iStock/Getty Images

Your elbow popping during pushups is a normal occurrence that generally won’t lead to future problems. There are, however, a few exceptions. If you consistently make your elbow pop at will you can irritate your elbow joint, leading to pain and swelling. You can also be exacerbating an underlying situation if the elbow popping comes with certain symptoms.

Why It Pops

Popping in your elbow can arise from one of two reasons. Your bones could be rubbing together and make a popping sound due to friction. They could also be temporarily stuck together if you’ve haven’t been extending your arm and make a popping sound due to fixation. Neither condition is unusual. Neither is anything to worry about, unless your elbow popping is accompanied by other symptoms.


Pain can be an indication that you have joint issues with your elbow – or not. If you get a sharp, tingling pain when your elbow pops and the pain only happens on occasion, the bones most likely touched a nerve when they were vibrating during friction. On the other hand, if your elbow hurts every single time it pops, turns red, swells or locks up, or is slowly becoming less mobile, you could have an underlying joint condition that might benefit from medical care.

What to Do

If your elbow popping only happens occasionally during your pushups and does not usually hurt, you don’t have to do anything differently. An elbow or any other joint popping does not automatically lead to any detrimental health issues. Even cracking your knuckles on purpose, contrary to myth, does not lead to arthritis. There are no exercises, supplements or lifestyle changes that are going to stop the popping, although you can modify your pushups to see if that stops the noise.

Pushup Modifications

Moving the positions of your hands during a pushup is one way to modify them in a bid to stop the popping noise. Instead of pointing your fingers forward, try your pushups with your hands gently turned and fingers pointed slightly inward or outward. Positioning your hands wider on the floor or sticking your elbows out during your pushups can also help, but both make the pushup more difficult. Switch from balancing on your feet to balancing on your knees to make your pushup easier.

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