Diagnosing Knee Crackling

Diagnosing Knee Crackling

Have you ever noticed a crackling sound when you move your knees? If this isn’t a common occurrence, this shouldn’t be cause for concern. However, if your knees crackle often, you shouldn’t leave this unchecked. At New York Sports Medicine Institute, our team is here to help. We want to share some common causes of a cracking knee and how our team can help you resolve this issue. 

Why Does My Knee Crackle?

It’s not uncommon for your knee to make the occasional crackle or popping noise as you bend or straighten them. You may also feel this sensation when you go up or down the stairs or walk. This sensation is known as crepitus. There are several explanations for why crepitus occurs. The knee is a large hinge joint that consists of bones, cartilage, ligaments, and the synovium. When the cartilage rubs against the knee joint during movement, it can cause crepitus. Some of the other causes of crepitus may include:

  • Osteoarthritis – Osteoarthritis can occur at any age but usually occurs in older adults. Osteoarthritis is also known as “wear and tear” arthritis. Biomechanical changes and mechanical stress break down the cushioning around your joint over time, causing inflammation and pain. 
  • Gas Bubbles – Gas can build up in the joint and form bubbles in the synovial fluid. Some of the bubbles may burst when you bend your knee. This doesn’t usually cause pain and happens to everyone occasionally.
  • Ligaments – The tendons and ligaments in your knee joint can stretch as they move over a bony lump. When they snap into place again, you can hear a crack in your knee. 
  • Injury – Crepitus can be the result of knee trauma. Falling on your knee can damage the knee joint. Some injuries that can cause crepitus include meniscus tears, patellofemoral syndrome, or chondromalacia patella. 
  • Patellofemoral Instability – Certain biological factors can make your knees noisier than someone else’s. Your knees may be more flexible or move more freely. 
  • Knee Surgery – Your knee can get noisier after surgery due to changes that can occur during the procedure or features of the new joint in the case of joint replacement surgery. 

Treating Crepitus

Occasional crackling usually isn’t anything to worry about however if you notice knee pain or if the crackling is ongoing over a few weeks, you should seek treatment. Here at New York Sports Medicine Institute, we will evaluate your condition and help determine the underlying cause of your crepitus. Your treatment will depend on the results. Some of the recommended treatments include:

  • Surgery or joint replacement. 
  • Exercise.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. 
  • Anti-inflammatory medication. 
  • Steroid injections into the joint.
  • Heat and cold therapy to reduce inflammation. 
  • Knee brace. 

If you are concerned about your knees, there are steps you can take to protect them better. Exercises can be helpful, but it is essential to consult with your physician before trying a new program. If your knees crackle when you exercise, you can modify the exercises to help. If you experience pain, you should not fight through the discomfort. Our team is available to help you find the best ways to manage your crepitus. 

Contact Our Team

While crepitus may not be a cause for concern, it is important to protect your knees to prevent damage and mobility issues. Any pain, redness, or swelling in your knees can indicate a more serious condition, so you should contact your doctor immediately for assistance. At New York Sports Medicine Institute, we provide our patients with quality treatment plans to help them recover from ailments or injuries. Contact our team today to learn more!