What's really going on with your noisy knees?

Hearing cracking, popping, or other noises coming from your knees can be upsetting. Is it really something to be concerned about, though? At what point should you see your doctor? Is there anything you can do to protect — or silence — those noisy knees?

Here's what you need to know.

The Science Behind the Sound

In order to fully understand the appropriate actions to take when your knees start cracking, it's important to first be clear about what actually causes those pesky noises. Cracking or popping joints — clinically referred to as crepitus — are generally caused by one of two factors:

  1. Gas bubbles. The most common cause of noisy joints is the formation of gas bubbles in the fluid that surrounds them. The bubbles pop as you move, resulting in that characteristic "cracking" sound.
  2. Age and use. Of course, bubbles aren't the sole reason joints get loud. Through age and use, the connective tissue around your joints can get worn down. As a result, bones and other tissues may start to rub together.

While these are the most common reasons for crepitus, the reality is that many other developments can contribute to noisy knees. Injury, arthritis, or other conditions could also be responsible for noises emanating from your knees and other joints.

When to Take Action

Most people go through a considerable portion of their lives with noisy knees, knuckles, and other joints. At what point should you see your doctor?

Crepitus is not usually a cause for concern if there is no pain associated with it. However, if those sounds are accompanied by pain, swelling, or locked joints, stop the activity and see a doctor as soon as possible.

Of course, there is no harm in visiting your doctor or advanced-practice clinician even when you don't feel any pain from those noisy joints. At the very least, your doctor could confirm that there is nothing to worry about. If the cracks and pops are related to a potential problem, consulting with your medical provider would give you the chance to catch the issue early and take action to prevent it from getting worse.

Read more about what you can do for those noisy knees.

The information provided by Dignity Health and Dignity Health Arizona is for general informational purposes only. All information is provided in good fair and we make no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied.