Have you noticed that your knees crack or make other noises whenever you walk, bend or stretch. Concerned about what this means, and what you can do to avoid it? Those unnerving sounds, known as crepitus, are probably what you’re hearing. In humans the knees are responsible for supporting nearly your entire body weight. Crepitus may show up unexpectedly, but it does not mean you have an underlying problem. Joint noises have been known to persist for several years without the development of significant problems. Cracking and popping, with no pain, may happen if the knee is slightly out of alignment and rubs against the tissue adjacent to it. However, if the noise occurs on a regular basis with pain, it could mean a more underlying problem. The more you weigh the more stress you put on the knees, which could cause an acute injury and osteoarthritis. Other noises can happen as a result of scar tissue or tendon snapping over a cavitation. Cavitation is vapor cavities that are found within liquid. Quinn (n.d.) explained “Cavitation frequently occurs in synovial joints when a small vacuum forms in the synovial fluid and a rapid release produces a sharp popping or cracking sound.” (Crepitus – Joint Noise Popping and Cracking, para. 2).
According to Brakke (2011) unique symptoms of knee crepitus caused by arthritis include (Crepitus in the Knee, para. 4).
- Unlike a mechanical popping where this popping sensation is painless and intermittent, the crepitus caused by arthritis is oftentimes painful.
- These symptoms are usually associated with other knee symptoms suggestive of arthritis, such as pain while walking, occasional swelling of the knee, stiffness, and so on.
- The most common initial location of arthritis in the knee is on the inside aspect of the knee.
- The sound of knee crepitus may be quite soft, but the crunching sensation is often palpable. It can be felt by placing the hand on the knee while flexing and extending the joint.
- Many things can cause the creaking or crunching sensation while flexing and extending the knee and it’s hard to tell without a full exam of the knee if this might be arthritis of the knee or other more innocent causes such as patellar motion.
Treatment of Knee Crepitus
As it has been noted cracking and popping sounds with no associated pain should not cause you to worry. Instead try performing conditioning exercises to help strengthen the muscles and joint. The less weight you put on the joint the better. If you are experiencing symptoms other than just cracking and popping in your knees you should seek a medical professional for an examination and x-rays in order to appropriately diagnosis the cause.
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- Brakke, R. (2011, July 11). Crepitus in the Knee. Retrieved from http://www.arthritis-health.com/joint/knee/crepitus-knee.
- Quinn, E. (n.d). Crepitus – Joint Noise Popping and Cracking. Retrieved from http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/injuries/a/aa092500.htm.