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Why Do My Knees Crack and Pop?

It doesn’t matter how old or young you are.  When you squat or stand up from a sitting position, you might hear that sound that some say sounds like a popular cereal tagline: “Snap, crackle, pop!” If you don’t feel pain beyond that quick bit of minor discomfort, you might be wondering, what is that cracking noise?  Is that popping sound bad?  

What Does It Mean When Your Knees Pop?

You’ll be relieved to know that in most cases, the majority of the time, that popping noise you hear is completely harmless. That sound has a medical term, called “crepitus.” According to arthritishealth.com, “Crepitus, sometimes called crepitation (krep-i-tay-shen), describes any grinding, creaking, cracking, grating, crunching, or popping that occurs when moving a joint. People can experience crepitus at any age, but it becomes more common as people get older.”  Crepitus can be caused by a variety of issues, including, air bubbles inside of the joint that pop, the snapping of tendons and ligaments over bony areas inside the body, or arthritis.

In addition to those more common issues, injuries can also cause that cracking and popping sound in the knee. Those issues can include injuries to the ACL, MCL, or Meniscus, or it could be a Baker Cyst Rupture or Patella Subluxation.  

So, when might you need to see a doctor for those popping sounds?  When there is pain associated with it. According to healthline.com., “You usually won’t need to contact a doctor or physical therapist if you have knee crepitus symptoms. However, if you have pain as well, there might be something going on.  Crepitus is one of the symptoms of osteoarthritis, so your doctor will want to check whether or not you have any other signs of this condition. It can also indicate that you might have a knee injury or another type of arthritis.”

Treatment for Popping Knees

Again, if you have no knee pain, you should learn to live with that cracking sound you occasionally hear. However, if your popping and pain are associated with arthritis, a doctor will prescribe you a treatment plan, similar to the one detailed below from Healthline: 

Physical Therapy for Knee Pain

Treating knee pain is what we do here at Physical Therapy NOW in Irving. Do you have knee pain?  Call us to set up your first appointment at (214) 225-0291.  We’ll help manage that knee pain with a custom treatment plan built just for you. 


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