(And should I be worried about it?)
As they grow older, many people experience creaking, cracking noises in the knees. It’s most noticeable when you squat down and stand straight again, or when you’re climbing stairs. But what’s actually happening to create that noise? And should it concern you? Let’s take the second question first…
Knee cracking – something to worry about?
As long as the knee isn’t painful or swollen, and as long as it functions normally (i.e. it doesn’t lock or give way) knee cracking isn’t usually something to be concerned about. It’s possible that the cracking may indicate some early signs of wear within the joint, and in time this may become osteoarthritis but again, if it isn’t painful, it’s not something to treat now.
If the cracking is accompanied by pain or swelling, if it gives way, or if your movement is restricted, you shouldn’t ignore it. This could be a sign of cartilage wear, a meniscus tear, something trapped in the joint or a loose body (a piece of cartilage or chipped bone fragment). Whatever the cause, the sooner it is diagnosed the swifter your knee specialist can treat it, and the greater the likelihood you’ll make a full recovery.
What causes knee cracking?
Some cracking is caused by uneven areas of knee cartilage gliding across each other and rubbing together. But painless cracking/popping that occurs when you squat down – and which is common at any age – has proved a little more difficult to pinpoint.
The most likely explanation is a ‘vacuum snap’ in which space opens up within the joint as you move, and then quickly closes down again creating a pop. A similar thing happens when you crack your knuckles.
Whatever the cause, if you’re worried about the cracking in your knees – and particularly if you’re experiencing knee pain, locking, or the knee is giving way, talk to the knee surgeons of Yorkshire Knee Clinic. Please contact us here.
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