Do your knees make noises when you move or bend? If so, there’s probably no reason for concern. Popping, clicking, and cracking sounds usually aren’t signs that something’s wrong, especially when there is no sign of swelling or pain in them. The medical term for these sounds is “crepitus.”
Where Do Knee Noises Come From?
Why do your healthy knees make noises, then? As you age, the tissue that covers the bones, called cartilage, can develop rough patches. When you stand or move, sounds come from these rough or uneven surfaces gliding across each other. Knee noises could also result from the actions of connective tissues, called ligaments. Ligaments connect bones to other bones and tighten as you move causing sounds that crackle or crunch.
If you have pain or swelling in addition to those cracking sounds, however, it may be a sign of something more severe. It could indicate issues such as these:.
Torn meniscus. The meniscus is a rubbery disc that pads and cushions your knee. The meniscus functions as a shock absorber. It also helps to spread your weight evenly so that your bones don’t rub together.
A torn meniscus is often the result of sudden twisting movements or other sports-related actions. In young people, meniscus tears usually are a result of injury or trauma. In aging adults, the meniscus is more vulnerable and can tear more easily.
Injured or worn cartilage. An injury or trauma to the cartilage covering the bones can cause it to break, and the broken piece can get trapped in the knee joint. The joint responds to this intrusion by swelling, grabbing, or catching.
Additionally, arthritis and inflammation can damage the cartilage in the knee causing it to wear thin or break down. It may feel like the bones that meet in the knee are grinding during movement. Osteoarthritis is the most common type, but rheumatoid and infectious arthritis can also lead to knee damage.
How Can You Keep Your Knees in Good Shape?
Regular exercise may strengthen the muscles in your legs and knees. Exercising with weights or resistance bands, or performing bodyweight moves such as squats and lunges at least twice a week can help support healthy knee function. Walking up stairs or hills, or riding a stationary bicycle helps to build muscle and provide knee support as well.
Don’t forget to warm up before you exercise. Launching into an intense workout with your muscles and joints still cold can cause trauma and injury. Warm up with stretching to get things warm and loose.
- Keep the muscles around the knees strong
- Slowly work up to harder and longer workouts
- Stay at a healthy weight to reduce stress on the knees
- Wear shoes that fit correctly and are in good condition
- Focus on diet and lifestyle management for inflammation reduction
Do My Cracking and Crunching Knees Mean I Should Get Checked?
Crepitus is a documented symptom of arthritis. If you’re hearing sounds, and especially if the sounds are accompanied by knee pain or swelling, schedule an exam with a knee pain doctor in Frederick, MD, such as from the Pain & Spine Specialist of Maryland, LLC. The professional’s exam and diagnostic tests can uncover any arthritic damage and determine the risk of it progressing to a symptomatic condition.