My 11 year old son started compulsively popping his neck last spring. The pediatrician suggested that it was a tic. She said to ignore it and it may go away in 6 months. It continued through the fall and then tapered off until this spring. Now it is back full force and he is now popping knuckles, ankles, toes, etc… I was wondering if seasonal allergies could increase his desire to crack his joints since it tapered off in the winter and spiked again this spring. However, his allergy medicine doesn't seem to reduce popping. He describes the jointcracking as something he feels like he has to do or he feels really uncomfortable. If he tries not to do it, he wants to do it even more. He has days that he pops his neck so much that it hurts him and he requests things to hold his neck still (travel pillow).
His history of behaviors has me thinking that he may have OCD.
As a small child (3yrs) he did excessive blinking of his eyes, but that stopped within a few months (again, maybe allergy related).
Later (4-5yrs), he started showing germ phobic tendencies with hand washing.
He then began avoiding sitting on toilet seats (even at home) and would hover or perch on his feet to avoid the germs.
Now he has become skeptical of his food and examines it carefully for gross stuff like burned spots and hairs.
I don't want to overreact and make the situation worse, but as his mom I feel responsible to consider all the treatment options.
I have heard that OCD can be treated with Cognitive Behavior Therapy and drugs to increase Seratonin. I am wondering if any jointcrackers have experienced success with these OCD treatments.
Joint cracking is a perfectly normal behavior, although one that others may find annoying. Many people are squeamish of the sound, the motions, etc. I would suggest that this has more to do with your perception and your way of handling it - you're turning a normal behavior into a situation.
Most joint crackers start in their early double digits to teen years. I also started at 11. I remember we were staying in a hotel by a river, and I felt this building pressure in my toes growing over several days, to the point they were very uncomfortable and mildly painful. One night I stretched in the hotel bed and accidentally pushed my toes against the foot board, and everything cracked. I had never cracked anything before, I had no idea how to do it or what it felt like. But oh my gosh, the pain was instantly gone. My body created the problem on its own, and I accidentally found the solution. In my case, I have loose ligaments, and it's similar for many (but not necessarily all) joint crackers. Learn about the anatomy of what happens when a joint cracks - that will explain why your son feels discomfort. It's part of a vicious cycle, but not anything that's wrong with him. A gas bubble forms inside the joint. When the joint is cracked, the bubble pops, releasing the feeling of pressure (which often feels stiff or painful). This also releases a little dopamine, so between the relief of pain + dopamine, that's why a lot of people enjoy the feeling. But think about the important part of that: release of pain/discomfort. Of course someone wants that. Anyway, the bubble re-forms after about 20 minutes, which is why it becomes a repetitive behavior.
When I'm alone, I rarely think about my cracking. Partially because when a joint's uncomfortable, I just crack it and move on with my day. However, when I'm around someone who insists I not crack in their presence, all I can think about is cracking. Then the discomfort and pressure of my joints not being cracked builds up, which combines with a constant need to remind myself not to crack around that person. You see, if I stop thinking about NOT cracking, I might forget and accidentally crack (and anger the person), because I absentmindedly crack quite often. Your son likely HAS to obsessively think about it because he's being forced to constantly remind himself not to perform an absentminded behavior. If you do something absentmindedly, the only way to make sure you don't do it is to constantly remind yourself of it - ie constantly think about it. Your son is "obsessed" with it (your phrasing) because the people around him are making it an issue. Even if you're not telling him not to do it, he knows you're watching for it, so on some level he's trying not to crack. I didn't phrase this well at all, I'm sorry. Let me give another example from my own life - and it obviously won't apply exactly to your experience, but hopefully you can see how it relates: my grandmother is absolutely INFURIATED when I crack a single knuckle around her. So whenever I'm around my grandmother, I can't hear a word she says, I can't pay attention to anything anyone else is doing, all I can do is think "don't crack don't crack don't crack." Because if I think about something else, I might absentmindedly crack my finger. And then she will lose it.
Your son is being watched, so he's trying not to crack, which means he has to constantly make sure he doesn't forget not to crack. Stop making it an issue and see what happens. Let him know you don't care, and it will likely stop being an OCD thing - at least to the extent you're making it. Yes, he'll keep cracking, like millions of us do. But it doesn't need to be an issue unless you for some reason need to make it one.