Cracking, grinding, clicking, creaking, popping and clunking are noises that knees can frequently make. These noises can be a great cause for concern for clients who present in our clinic, and a question we are frequently asked is – “is it normal for my knee to make so much noise?”.
Knee joint noise, also called “Crepitus”, is extremely common. Research has shown that 99% of people without knee problems have noisy knees. However, people often place great significance on their knee joint noise. Robertson et al. (2017) explored commonly-held beliefs about what crepitus means to various individuals and how it influences their behaviour. Her research indicated that knee crepitations can lead to worry and anxiety and, eventually, fear-avoiding behaviour. People experienced anxiety relating to the uncertainty of what the noise meant, with this concern increasing over time. Some people expressed fear that the noise may be caused by bone grinding on bone which would cause the joint to wear away. Concerns were also expressed that the knee was prematurely ageing, which made those individuals move slower to avoid further progression. People reported feeling self-conscious and embarrassed if they had knee crepitus in front of others. These feelings would be reinforced with friends and family wincing when they heard the noise and expressing their opinion that something was not right with the individual’s knee. Knee crepitus may eventually lead to people altering their movement to avoid the noise, and ultimately avoiding certain activities in their daily life.
With such strong negative beliefs widely held about crepitus, it should be reassuring to know that it there is generally no cause for concern, as noisy knees are entirely normal. There is no research evidence indicating a link between crepitus and joint damage.
What then causes knee crepitus? There are a number of hypotheses, including tendons moving over bony protuberances, movement of the joint creating a vacuum which leads to the collapse of gas bubbles in the synovial fluid, resulting in a popping noise; or fluid flowing through a slightly rough surface underneath the knee cap.
If, however, you are concerned or are experiencing pain with your noisy knees, please make an appointment with one of our clinicians at Bend + Mend for an expert opinion. We have four locations in Sydney’s CBD.