A lot of people present to see us with noisy, creaking knee joints or what we call crepitus. You might have already had crepitus there but through the presence of pain your alert system becomes hypersensitive to your knee and hence you notice both the pain and swelling. Sometimes there’s no pain associated but just the sound warrants a trip of the Physio to get it checked out.
If the noise is meaningful to you it’s meaningful to us
Educating and understanding the meaning behind the noise can also help alleviate some of your thoughts. Often with knee crepitus you will hear cracks or pops which can be the knee-cap moving into the middle portion of the groove its meant to sit in (the trochlear notch), this often makes it feel better.
Robertson et al. (2017) found some common themes when exploring people’s beliefs about the noise, influence of others, and avoiding the noise. People were often alarmed by the noise thinking it’s the joint wearing away and the belief of premature ageing which can cause worry. Sometimes even the grating sound whilst going upsteps or stairs might cause your friends or family to comment on your knees leading to more anxiety. But rest assured McCoy et al. (1987) found that 99% of normal knees had some joint crepitus.
(Now if you feel or hear a crack or pop during a traumatic or sporting injury, that may be a whole different story and will need closer assessment with your physio or sports doc).
McCoy, G, McCrea, J, Beverland, D, Kernohan, W & Mollan, R 1987, ‘Vibration arthrography as a diagnostic aid in diseases of the knee. A preliminary report’, The Bone and Joint Journal, vol. 69-B, no. 2, pp. 288-293.
Robertson, C, Hurley, M & Jones, F 2017, ‘People’s beliefs about the meaning of crepitus in patellofemoral pain and the impact of these beliefs on their behaviour: A qualitative study’, Musculoskeletal Science and Practice, vol. 28, pp. 59-64.