Knee cracking, popping and creaking are very common complaints but are actually nothing to worry about. Today’s post is an explanation of what causes the cracking in your knees, why it is no issue and what you can do to help it if it still gives you or a family member the heebie-jeebies…
Firstly, in the majority of cases, the cracking IS NOT FROM ARTHRITIS.
The most common cause of knee cracking or crackling are:
- Gas bubbles within the main knee joint. We have a lubricating fluid within our joints called synovial fluid and within this can be gas bubbles. The change in joint pressures with movements of the knee causes these gas bubbles to move and pop – causing the cracking or popping noise
- Fluid movement behind the kneecap causes more of a fine crackling noise when bending the knee back and forth
- Another common cause of knee cracking is extra-articular (outside the joint) tendons or ligaments snapping back and forth over a knobbly bit of bone.(1)
Either way – these are not usually painful but if you are getting pain with you knee cracking then you should see a physio to get it assessed and treated.
The cracking can happen at any age but is more common as you get older and can be in one or both knees
Painful knee cracking
This is far less common but it can be caused by wear and tear (degeneration) of the cartilage and can be treated well with good treatment and rehab exercises – particularly if caught early, so if in doubt, go see your physio.
The video below gives a great explanation of crepitus and how it has no correlation to pain or pathology (Watch from 1 minute onwards)
How to decrease swelling and support your knee
For those that DO have painful knees, as well as seeing your physio, a compressive knee support can help a lot. There are two main types for you:
- A slip on compression sleeve with patella support. Having support for the kneecap at the front helps maintain alignment and compression of the support is key for helping keep the knee warm and decrease fluid from swelling.
- For those of you with large thighs, a wrap around knee support can be better fitting and more comfortable as the above braces and more cylindrical in shape and can slip or roll down.
Another great way to support the knee is to get the muscles around it stronger! A great place to start on that is some wall sits, which is a very safe way to lay a base of strength without aggravating any knee pain. A great resource for doign that is our downloadable Knee Self-Rehab guide – You can check it out HERE or read more on knee rehab in our popular blog post here