A lot of patients in my clinic start by telling me their knee has pop or snap. This could be the symptom of a meniscus or cartilage tear. Other noises are a grinding sensation we call “crepitus”. This comes from mechanical irritation of the cartilage. This is usually under the knee cap. So lets take a look at knee noises.
First is the knee popping noise painful?
Often the painful type of sounds will be from a torn cartilage getting caught between the bones of the knee. This is usually a torn meniscus. This is the most common cause of painful knee popping and catching. An injury or sometimes just wear and tear will cause the meniscus to tear.
If the noise is not painful and more of a grinding when the knee bends it is probably a sign of inflamed cartilage. We often call this chondromalacia. This comes from the wear and tear of the surface mainly under the knee cap. Usually this can be a feeling more than a noise. This is “crepitus” and less serious. But it is the beginning of osteoarthritis of the knee.
Neither of these causes is reassuring. The next question is what happens after the noise? Is there swelling? How long does the pain last? If there is swelling and the pain lingers then it is concerning and needs to be checked.
Prevent Knee Popping and Grinding
Most of these sounds come when you squat. Some simple things you can do to prevent these scary knee popping sounds in your knee are:
- Squat correctly – don’t let your knees pass your toes
- Strengthen your legs – give your knee the support it needs from the quads and hamstrings
- Improve hip mobility with stretching
- Improve ankle range of motion
- Eat healthy and take some stress off your knees – 7 times your body weight goes across your knee to step up one step
- Stop doing what hurts – avoid the painful motions and give your knee a chance to heal
- Elastic knee supports may help
Got Knee Popping? Contact your Orthopedic Surgeon…early!
While many of these tips may settle things down, if the noise is painful and persist see an orthopedic surgeon. Many times education, physical therapy, and medicines can help. An MRI may be needed to confirm a meniscus cartilage tear. I appreciate getting involved early so the damaged cartilage doesn’t get worse. So many people are afraid to get these things checked out, but it really could make a difference in the long run. A meniscus cartilage tear that is catching and popping can be treated early on with an arthroscopic procedure. This could prevent extensive damage to the knee joint and get you back to your game faster.
Not all noises are serious but if they are painful get it checked out.
Understanding your knee will help you take good care of them, we only get one pair! I hope this is helpful. Let me know!