Knee Cracking- Do you know what your Knees are trying to tell you?

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Don’t ignore your noisy knees. They may be conveying something to you, especially when you are over the age of 35 and above. A new study states that it could be a risk sign of developing Osteoarthritis.

During yoga class or at the gym or even bending down to pick something up during your workday, we all might have heard the cracks that can come when we bend our knees. A little cracking or popping when you move your knees is considered normal and is harmless. But, what if it happens frequently and associated with pain?

It may be a cause of various underlying health complications that may include:  osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or patellar dysfunction and are advised to seek medical evaluation.

Curious to know why your knees make noises? Let’s find out

What is Knee cracking?

The occasional popping, snapping and crackling sound heard while flexing the knees is known as “knee cracking” or “knee crepitus”. It is quite common for the knee joints to produce a cracking sound while performing squats, knee crunches and stretching exercise and/or while bending or folding the knees. This is accompanied by a grating or popping sensation that is usually not accompanied by any knee pain.

What causes the “cracking” sound?

The cracking sound, medically known as “crepitus” is caused due to the presence of air in the space between the joints, subcutaneous tissue, and bones. Over time air builds up in the areas surrounding the joint, forming tiny bubbles in the synovial fluid (which acts as a lubricant between the bones and joints). The synovial fluid protects the bones and joints and avoids friction and tearing. These bubbles formed in the synovial fluid, burst and ligaments may snap or pop when the knees are bent or flexed.

Common Causes of Cracking Knee

  • ● Age factor: Knee Crepitus is common for people of all ages. However, as pe0ple get older, the cracking sounds usually progresses and become louder and may or may not be audible to other people. Pain may develop gradually with age this is due to wear and tear, thinning of cartilages, soft tissue and bone and decreasing joint space.
  • ● Injuries: An injury or trauma causing the fracture to the knee, tearing of meniscus and rupture of the tendon.
  • ● Obesity: People who are overweight or obese might experience knee crepitus, with or without any accompanying knee pain. These people usually experience knee pain that is caused by the excess weight and pressure on the knees. It is best to consult a doctor in case the pain worsens.
  • ● Over usage of joints: Excessive wear and tear usually experienced by rigorous sports activities like cycling, climbing, running and training for marathons, squatting and ground sitting habits etc, cause knee cracking with occasional knee pain. Best advice would be to consult a doctor to evaluate the cause of pain.
  • ● Osteoarthritis: Painful and popping knees are a common symptom of osteoarthritis. Middle-aged and older adults are often prone to Osteoarthritis (OA). Mechanical stress and biochemical changes, osteoporosis and other age-related factors cause the degeneration of the cartilage that cushions the joint, causing inflammation and knee pain. It is best to consult an orthopedician and seek advice and treatment.

Click here to know your joint age.

Precautions:

● To eliminate the awkward noise from your knees, here are some tips that can relieve you from knee cracking:

  • ● Weight reduction and avoiding activities that exert excessive stress on joint cartilage.
  • ● Regular exercise like cycling, swimming and moderate walking helps to decrease the joint stiffness and increase flexibility, improves the strong muscles that actual knee and maintain the joint space.
  • ● Walk up hills or upstairs, avoiding squatting and ground sitting habits are also useful

If you are still experiencing the same irking sound you must consult a  doctor.

What to look out for? When to be concerned?

Occasional knee cracking accompanied by a sensation of popping is normal. However, if the knee popping or cracking is regular and accompanied by pain and/or noticeable swelling, it is best to consult a doctor and seek medical evaluation & advice. Painful cracking knees accompanied by swelling could be an indicator or precursor of underlying osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, infectious arthritis or patellar dysfunction.  

Article by:

Dr. K.J.Reddy

MS(PGI),DNB,FRCS(UK),FRCS(Ortho)

Orthopedician

Apollo Health City

To book an appointment for Dr. K.J.Reddy. Click here

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