What Is Knee Crepitus
Knee crepitus is when you notice clicking or popping in the knees when you bend or straighten them out.
This condition comes as no surprise, and it is quite common in people over 65 years and people who exercise.
Most of the time it is nothing to worry about.
However, there are different causes for knee clicking to happen. Some of the common causes include stress or injury to the knee joint, or the leg, accompanied by pain upon movement.
Depending on the cause of knee popping, your physician will determine which treatment is best for you and will be used in further treatment.
Other patients experience ONLY knee clicking, and this occurs as a result of improper positioning of some part of the knee, leading to increased stress or strain on other parts of leg which produces the clicking noise.
Knee Crepitus Causes
Over time, gas can build up in the areas surrounding the joint, forming tiny bubbles in the Synovial fluid.
The synovial fluid in the joint capsule has four important functions:
- It keeps the bones slightly apart, protecting their cartilage coverings from wear and tear
- It absorbs shocks protecting the cartilage
- It lubricates the joint, helping it to work freely and easily
- It acts as a filter, letting nutrients reach the cartilage, but blocking the passage of harmful cells and substances
When you bend your knee, some of the bubbles burst, and ligaments may snap or pop creating that clicking sound. This is very normal and can happen to everyone occasionally.
Arthritis, on the other hand damages cartilage and bone and it can be really painful. As the damaged knee joint moves, it may crackle and crunch.
When a joint’s cartilage degenerates over the years, the joint is no longer adequately protected against friction and impacts.
In addition, the loss of cartilage can alter the joint’s biomechanics and cause bones to grind against one another.
These changes can result in crepitus.
Many people experience knee crepitus, and can also get it in other joints, such as the hip, shoulder, neck and spine, which are frequently affected by arthritis while aging.
Knee Popping While Exercising
When you do squats, cracking sounds may come from these rough surfaces gliding across each other. It could be also ligaments tighten as you move, or the joint lining moving over bones.
In case you have cracking or popping that does cause pain or swelling, you must see a doctor.
It can be a sign of:
The meniscus is a rubbery C-shaped disc that cushions your knee and acts as a shock-absorber.
It also helps spread weight evenly so your bones don’t rub together. Meniscus tears are often caused by sudden twisting, or other things you might do while playing sports.
In young people, tears usually happen during a traumatic event, but as we age the meniscus can tear more easily.
Sometimes the cartilage covering of our bones can be injured, causing a piece to break off and catch in our joint.
Symptoms of cartilage damage in a joint include:
- joint pain – this may continue even when resting and worsen when you put weight on the joint
- swelling – this may not develop for a few hours or days
- a clicking or grinding sensation
- the joint locking, catching, or giving way
Cartilage in your knee can also become thin or break down in case of arthritis. Some people say it feels like their knees are grinding when they move.
Osteoarthritis is the most common kind of arthritis, and it usually affects middle-aged and older people.
When To Be Concerned
There’s no need to be concerned about it if no pain is included.
However, pain that accompanies the crackling and popping sounds could indicate a problem such as arthritis, osteoarthritis and infectious arthritis and may accompany several different types of knee injuries.
See your doctor as soon as possible if your knee creaks, crackles and hurts badly.
How To Treat Knee Crepitus
First of all you need to know the symptoms whether they come from stretching, which is painless, or from arthritis which is often quite painful.
Pay attention to:
- Look for signs of pain, redness, swelling and stiffness while walking. The most common location of crepitus from arthritis is in the inner part of the knee.
- Feel for the presence of crepitus by placing one hand on top of the knee while flexing and extending the joint. Usually, crepitus results in a soft yet crunchy sensation.
1.Reduce Local Swelling
If the crepitus is accompanied by pain and signs of inflammation, apply ice packs (wrapped in a towel) to the area. Ice packs help decrease the swelling of the inflamed area and ease the associated pain.
You may also take small amounts of over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen) or something for quick pain relief.
However, don’t rely on these drugs for long-term pain relief, as they can affect the kidneys and gastrointestinal tract.
The benefit from them is that they not only diminish pain, but also reduce inflammation.
2.Get A Prescription For Anti-inflammatory Drugs
Prescription-strength anti-inflammatory drugs are stronger-acting than over-the-counter varieties and may prove more effective at fighting the pain and inflammation associated with knee crepitus.
However, these stronger drugs require permission from a doctor, which usually means your knee crepitus will need to be clinically examined by one.
3.Receive Cortisol Injection
Cortisone is a steroid hormone that is naturally produced by the body in response to stress.
It suppresses the body’s immune system by reducing inflammation. For cases of painful knee crepitus, doctors may choose to inject cortisone directly into the knee joint to reduce pain and inflammation.
However, there are side effects to this: the injected cortisone medication can crystallize inside the body.
The crystals can cause pain and inflammation that is worse than the pain and inflammation caused by the condition being treated.
A cortisone flare typically lasts one or two days and can be treated with rest and intermittent cold packs.
However, frequent, repeated injections into the joint can actually cause cartilage to deteriorate, worsening the knee pain.
Therefore, cortisone injections aren’t suitable as a long-term form of treatment.
Source: Watermark Medical Animations
4.Have A Treatment Called – Viscosupplementation
Your doctor may also recommend “viscosupplementation” — a procedure that involves injecting new fluid into your knee joint to strengthen and lubricate your knee joint.
Depending on the product used, you will receive one to five shots over several weeks.
During the procedure, if there is any swelling in your knee, your doctor will remove (aspirate) the excess fluids before injecting the hyaluronic acid.
Usually, the aspiration and the injection are done using only one needle injected into the joint.
For the first 48 hours after the shot, you should avoid excessive weight bearing on the leg, such as standing for long periods, jogging or heavy lifting.
Side Effects : You may notice a local reaction, such as pain, warmth, and slight swelling immediately after the shot. These symptoms generally do not last long.
You may want to apply an ice pack to help ease them.
Possible Complications : Rarely, patients may develop a local allergy-like reaction in the knee.
In these cases, the knee may become full of fluid, red, warm, and painful. If this occurs, contact your doctor immediately.
5.Wear A Knee Brace
Special medical braces are sometimes given to patients with arthritis in the knee. These braces shift the weight off of the inside portion of the knee, where crepitus is most common.
Knee braces can also stabilize and support the knee joint, ensuring it bends in a healthy way and protecting it from further damage or irritation.
Over-the-counter knee braces are commercially available for cheap prices, but most medical-quality knee braces need to be custom-made to fit your joint and can therefore be more expensive.
Talk to your doctor for pricing information if you’re interested in a knee brace.
6.Consider Consultation For Surgery
In severe cases of knee crepitus associated with arthritis, surgery may be the only option.
If your quality of life is not good enough due to your knee pain and you’ve already tried non-surgical treatments, consider talking to your doctor about options for knee surgery.
There are several types of knee surgery that your doctor may recommend:
- total or partial knee replacement
- cartilage repair
- knee arthroscopy
- and knee osteotomy as most common options
Note that knee surgeries that work well for one patient may not work for other patients.
Arthritis is notoriously tricky to treat — be sure you discuss all options with your doctor before you make a decision.
Source: NHS Choices
Knee Crepitus Prevention Tips
Make sure you have the correct diagnosis
Knee pain can be caused from a few different diagnoses including :
- osteoarthritis (caused by mechanical “wear and tear” on the knee joint over time — the most common cause)
- rheumatoid arthritis (caused by autoimmune problems)
- infectious arthritis
- old knee injuries
- or patellar dysfunction
It is key to see a doctor to establish the correct diagnosis, because the best treatment and management plan depends specifically on what is going on inside your knee.
Manage your weight
Each pound of weight gain puts up to six more pounds of pressure on the knee joint. Thus, overweight people tend to develop arthritis more frequently than those at a healthy weight.
To prevent future knee pain try to maintain a healthy weight, primarily through diet (exercise may be limited by the presence of knee pain).
People with arthritis are advised to avoid:
- processed or fried foods
- refined carbohydrates
- and corn oil
All of them may aggravate the inflammation of the joint directly, or through weight gain.
Muscles around the joint act as shock absorbers, helping to support and stabilize the joints both in physically demanding situations (such as during sports and exercise) as well as in your daily activities.
The stronger the muscles are, the greater stress they can absorb.
To help prevent crepitus (and, if you already have it, to reduce it), gradually build the muscles around your joint through strength exercise.
Warm up before you exercise. An intense workout with cold muscles and joints can cause injury.
Before exercise, try dynamic stretches, in which you move a muscle through a full range of motion. After exercise, do static stretches, where you hold a stretch for 30 seconds.
This helps prevent an injury.
Regularly stretch the muscles in the front and back of your thigh (quadriceps and hamstrings, respectively).
If you’re already exercising, slowly work up to harder, longer workouts.
Wear shoes that fit right and are in good condition.
Try a combination of ice and heat packs
Both have been shown to help people diminish the pain that is often associated with knee crepitus. Try experimenting with icing and/or heat to see if it works for you.
Cautiously consider dietary supplements
Certain nutritional supplements including glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate are used by some arthritis sufferers to treat or prevent knee crepitus.
However, these supplements are not regulated by the FDA and have not yet been scientifically proven to work.
There is also little information on any side effects from long-term use of these supplements.
Clinical studies are underway to evaluate these supplements for medical use.
In the meantime, talk to your doctor or someone you trust who has tried these dietary supplements before beginning to take them.
Natural medicines and treatments for joint pain are available at most drugstores and health food stores. Just keep in mind that few have been proven clinically effective.
As we get older and wear off our joints, somehow this is inevitable to happen. Fortunately we have plenty of information to use as an early prevention or treatment of knee pain and crepitus.
The only thing you can do is to educate yourself well enough on this issue and take actions before anything happens.
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