What is Causing that Clicking Sound in Your Knee?

December 13th, 2019

A common question that physical therapists hear a lot is, “should I be concerned if my knees are clicking and popping when I move it?”. Clicking knees often leads to anxiety which can limit your ability to enjoy certain physical activities. Noise in the knee joint can come from several different reasons.

Natural Noises of the Knee

  • Harmless Joint ‘Popping’ – As you move your knee around, air pockets build up within the knee joint fluid. Sometimes, when you perform a movement, the change in pressure causes those air pockets to pop and create a snapping sound called cavitation.
  • Soft tissue rubbing over a bone – The knee is surrounded by ligaments and tendons so sometimes these tissues catch over a bony bump and make a clicking noise.

These noises are natural and are usually nothing to be concerned about.

Possible Conditions to be Concerned About?

Torn Meniscus – If the clicking in your knee comes with pain and it feels like something is catching within the knee when you try to bend or straighten it, you may have a meniscus tear. The meniscus is the cartilage in the knee joint that functions to stabilize the knee and absorb shock. When the meniscus gets damaged from overuse or trauma, loose pieces of cartilage can catch within the knee.

Osteoarthritis – If you hear painful popping and grinding, it may be from Osteoarthritis. This is when the cartilage in the knee joint has worn away and it may be bone on bone. This condition is typically very painful.

Chondromalacia of the Patella – sometimes the roughness behind the knee cap will grind against the knee causing a crunching noise when you straighten the knee. This may be from damage or injury of the cartilage behind the knee cap.

When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention?

If you suffered a traumatic incident and heard a loud popping noise with swelling/pain, that is a cause for concern. Often times, a loud pop means that you have ruptured/torn one of your ligaments. You may have torn your Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), Medial Cruciate Ligament (MCL), Lateral Cruciate Ligament (LCL), or Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL). The knee will usually swell up if you tore a ligament.

If you believe you have one of these injuries above, call Respire today at 571-265-9570 to schedule an evaluation and determine if surgery can be prevented!

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