Noisy knees? It could be Knee cracking
Are your knees trying to tell you something that’s happening deep inside you? Don’t ignore such signs. They may be conveying something, especially when you are at the age of 35 and above.
During aerobics class or at the gym or even when leaning down to pick something up during your workday, we all might have heard loud pop or cracks when we stoop our knees. A little cracking or popping of knees is considered normal and even harmless. But, what if it happens frequently? It may be a sign of various underlying health complications that may include: rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or even patellar dysfunction.
Want to know the reason for noisy knees? Let’s find out.
What is Knee cracking?
The occasional popping, crackling and snapping sound heard while flexing the knees is known as “knee cracking” (knee crepitus). It is quite normal for the knee joints to produce a cracking sound while exercising or folding the knees or bending knees. This can also be accompanied by a popping or grating sensation that is usually not accompanied by knee pain.
What are the causes for knee cracking?
The cracking sound of knees medically termed as “crepitus” is created due to the presence of air in the space between the joints, connective tissue, and bones. Over time the air builds up in the areas surrounding the joint, forming tiny bubbles in the synovial fluid (natural lubricant between the bones and joints). The synovial fluid protects the joints, and avoids friction and tearing. These tiny bubbles formed in the synovial fluid, burst and ligaments may pop when the knees are bent or flexed.
What are the common causes of cracking knee?
- Age factor: People of all ages can experience knee cracking or crepitus. However, the cracking sounds usually progress and become louder as people grow older and may or may not be audible to other people. This is caused due to wear and tear or thinning of cartilages, soft tissue or bone.
- Obesity: People who are obese might experience knee crepitus, with or without knee pain. People who are overweight usually experience knee pain that is caused by the excess pressure on the weight-bearing joints (knees). It is best to consult an Orthopedician in case the pain worsens.
- Injuries: An injury or trauma to the knee, tearing of tissue, scar tissue, meniscus or tendon.
- Over usage of joints: Excessive wear and tear usually endured by rigorous sports activities like climbing, cycling, running and training for marathons, etc cause knee cracking with occasional knee pain. It is advised to carry on low impact exercises and consult a doctor to evaluate the cause of pain.
- Osteoarthritis: Popping and painful knees are common symptoms of osteoarthritis. Middle-aged and older adults are usually prone to Osteoarthritis (also known as wear-and-tear arthritis). Mechanical stress, biochemical changes, osteoporosis and other age-related determinants cause the breakdown of the cartilage, causing inflammation and knee pain.
Best exercises for Knee Cracking;
Regular exercise encourages joint health.
- Workout with resistance bands, weights, body weight moves can build the muscle support to the knees.
- Walk up hills or upstairs, cycling and swimming also useful.
- Calf release, IT band release, Hip flexor release, Inner thighs squat and Vastus Medialis Obliquus builds strength to your knee.
- Go for complementary treatments like water therapy, acupuncture and yoga to ease joint pain
What to look out for? When to be concerned?
Occasional knee cracking accompanied with a sensation of popping and irking sound is considered as normal. However, if the knee popping or cracking is regularly experienced along with pain and noticeable swelling, it is best to consult an Orthopedician and seek medical evaluation & advice.
Painful cracking knees accompanied by swelling could be a sign or precursor of underlying health conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, infectious arthritis or patellar dysfunction which needs to be addressed by consulting a Rheumatologist.