A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Knee popping: No knee pain, no medical worry

Woman sitting on steps with her hands folded on her knees

Knee popping is not uncommon and is typically noisier than it is medically concerning.

Climb the stairs – snap.

Sit to stand – crackle.

First moves at the gym – pop.

Knee popping is not uncommon and is typically noisier than it is medically concerning.

“Most knee popping is fairly benign,” said Dr. Glen Rudolph, a Marshfield Clinic Health System orthopedic surgeon. “As long as your knee pops aren’t painful, there’s likely no reason to be concerned.”

So why the pop?

Doctors call it crepitus and there are many reasons popping can occur.

Sometimes the pop comes from air bubbles in the joint.

“This is just like cracking your knuckles,” Rudolph said. “You’re releasing gas bubbles.”

The sound might also come from snapping tendons, fluid inside the knee between the joint or irregular joint surfaces.

Pain? See a doctor…

“If any pain accompanies the knee popping, it’s not a bad idea to see your doctor for an opinion,” Rudolph said. “It’s never an inconvenience for us.”

Crepitus can be a symptom of something more concerning, like osteoarthritis. This begins with the breakdown of cartilage in the joint. As cartilage wears down, the bone ends form bony growths that can interfere with joint movement. Again, pain is a sign something more is occurring.

Keep your knees healthy

There are things you can do to keep your knees healthy, Rudolph said, including:

  • Stretch before and after exercise.
  • Stay properly hydrated.
  • Provide downtime for your knees.
  • Get enough sleep each night.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Practice less impactful exercise like biking, swimming or elliptical training.
  1. Apr 26, 2016
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