A question we are frequently asked is – “is it normal for my knee to make so much noise?”. You might notice your knees clicking while bending down to pick something up or when standing up after a long period of sitting. It’s a common occurrence, and while it might make you pause and wonder if it’s a sign of trouble, fear not! The cracking or popping noises that come from your knees often don’t indicate a significant problem.
There are many potential causes of knee crepitus. Cavitation is one potential cause – this is the build-up and release of gas bubbles within the synovial fluid that lubricates your joints. Movement of your joint creates a vacuum as the pressure within the joint changes, leading to the collapse of gas bubbles in the synovial fluid. Another reason for knee crepitation is from tendons moving over bony protuberances. Regular physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of knee problems. Strength training of the surrounding musculature (quads, hamstrings) allows for better support and stability around the knee joint.
Knee clicking is also referred to as “crepitus” which can occur in many joints in the body. Research has shown that 99% of people without knee problems have noisy knees. Despite this research, people can have a lot of negative associations with their knee crepitations which can lead to worry and anxiety. Often, the clicking of a joint can be associated with having a worn-out bony surface and therefore worry about causing more damage to their knee.
As a general guide, if there is no pain or if you don’t feel unstable in your knee as a result of it clicking then chances are you aren’t doing any damage and it’s fine to keep active and use your knee. In fact, the harm in this scenario is if a patient with a click in their knee starts to avoid doing exercises involving that leg as they believe the clicking is damaging their knee.
The eland, a type of African antelope, uses knee clicking to display dominance so instead of seeing cracking knees as a sign of pathology, think of it as a positive sign that our joints are mobile and well-lubricated.
However, if you experience the knee clicking or catching accompanied with swelling and severe or persistent pain, make an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists at Bend + Mend for an expert opinion.