Many of us will have had knees that make noises when we do certain movements. Mine used to make quite loud noises when I was in my teens, but not so much now. But is the creaking bad for you? And will it damage the joint?
The creaking noise you might hear in your knees is called crepitus. Crepitus means audible or palpable sensations of grating, cracking or popping around a moving joint.
Many patients that come in to see me believe that crepitus is associated with degeneration of the joint and are afraid that crepitus producing movements can cause further damage. This unfortunately results in a decrease in activity levels and modification of movements to avoid crepitus.
What causes crepitus?
Several theories have been proposed as to what causes crepitus, but we are not 100% sure
tendon 'snapping' over a bony protuberance
connection between the two joint surfaces acts as a vacuum causing gas bubbles within the joint fluid to create a popping sensation
normal fluid flowing against slightly rough surfaces may cause a fine grating sensation especially in the patella-femoral joint
Is it bad?
Most likely not!! A study in 1987 investigated 247 symptomatic and 250 normal knees and found that 99% of the normal subjects had patella-femoral crepitus - meaning that its quite normal.
More recent research has failed to find any strong links between knee crepitus and poor knee outcomes for knee health. There is also no relationship between crepitus and needing a total knee replacement.
What should you do about it?
Crepitus does often appear alongside knee pain such as patello-femoral pain and arthritis. It's these conditions that physiotherapy through evidence based manual therapy and exercise is good at treating and they should be assessed and treated to help you get back to the activities that you love.
If you don't have pain or decreased function and your knees make noises, then you shouldn't worry - continuing to be active, exercising regularly and going about your normal activities.
If you are worried about your knees come and see one of our expert physiotherapists. We will help allay any fears you may have, get you onto an exercise program to improve strength and movement and have you back to doing the activities you love as soon as possible.