Knee Noises: Popping and Cracking

Knee Noises: Popping and Cracking

When you start to hear your knees pop and crack, it can be extremely concerning. Fortunately, popping and cracking sounds aren’t usually signs that something’s wrong.

According to Dr. David McAllister, “A lot of joints crack and the knees are a really common joint to crack,” he continued, “Most people have knees that crack when they squat down or go through the full arc of motion. We generally don’t worry about cracking or popping if it isn’t associated with pain or swelling.”

Are you curious to figure out why your healthy knees might be making noises? One of the main reasons is because as we age, the tissue that covers the bones, called cartilage, can develop uneven areas. When we squat or stand, sounds come from these rougher surfaces gliding across each other. Ligaments, the tissue that connects bones, tightens as you move and the joint lining moving over bones also creates its own melody!

Here are some more serious causes of knee popping and cracking:

Cartilage injury or wear a thick smooth layer of “articular cartilage” covers the bones of our knee. Injuries and certain diseases like Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) can cause defects or holes to occur in the cartilage layer.   If you have a cartilage defect then the surfaces of your knee are no longer smooth, and your knee is likely to pop, snap or grind.

Chondromalacia is often seen as an overuse injury in sports a condition where the cartilage on the undersurface of the patella (kneecap) deteriorates and softens. This condition is common among young, athletic individuals, but may also occur in older adults who have arthritis of the knee. Friction between the back of the kneecap and the underlying femur (thigh bone) can cause knee popping.

Meniscus Tears The two menisci are stuck between the end of the femur and top of the tibia.  They are C-shaped discs that help support the knee and protect the cartilage surfaces.  Because a meniscus is between the two bones, a torn meniscus with a loose flap can easily cause the knee to snap, pop or crack with turning, twisting and squatting.

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Osteoarthritis is the degeneration or “thinning” of the cartilage that you have on the ends of your bones.  Normal cartilage is incredibly smooth.  As the arthritis progresses the cartilage will undergo changes that cause significant roughness to the surfaces of the knee.  Sometimes the cartilage can even peel off the bone leaving a defect or crater in the cartilage.  As the ends of your bones move on one another, any irregularity in the surface can cause snapping and popping within the knee

Tips to prevent knee injuries

If you are having knee pain, you may worry that exercising could cause more damage or pain, but the opposite is actually true. Here are some tips to maintain healthy knees while exercising:

  • Strengthening the muscles that support your knee, and keeping them flexible is the best way to prevent injuries. You should start exercising with weights or resistance bands to strengthen the knees.
  • Remember to warm up before and after you work out to keep your muscles warm. You should think of warming up as a primer. You should work on priming the joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons and stabilizing muscles for the areas that you will be working out.
  • When working out, start slow and use equipment appropriate to your size, strength, and ability. Avoid repeated movements that can cause injury. In daily routines or hobbies, look at activities in which you make repeated knee movements.
  • Avoid activities that put pressure on your knees such as deep knee bends or downhill running.
  • Wear shoes with good arch supports.
  • When playing contact sports, wear the right shoes that are made for the surface you are playing or running on, such as a track or tennis court.

If you have knee pain, you may need to see a specialist. Call 713-766-0023 or visit to schedule an appointment with Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. William Bryan. He’s been in practice for over thirty-five years at the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

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