Crunching sound in my knee: What it is, when it’s serious and what can treat it

crunching sound in knee

It can be concerning to hear a crunching sound in your knee whenever you’re walking, running, jumping or squatting. Occasional knee popping may be nothing more than the movement of lubricating fluid in the joint, especially if it is unaccompanied by pain or stiffness. However, a persistent crunching sound in your knee can point to serious conditions you should seek help for.

There are many reasons that you may be experiencing a crunching sound in your knee. If there is no pain, swelling or other symptoms along with the crunching, then you likely have what is known as crepitus.

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What is crepitus?

By itself, knee crepitus usually isn’t a point of concern. It is often related to the rubbing of the cartilage in your knees or between other soft tissue, such as scar tissue from a previous injury. It can also be tied to the sound of tendons or ligaments snapping over bony structures in your knee or as a result of previous cartilage damage. As a result, you may hear a crunching or popping noise when extending your knee or straightening it. 

Many experts attribute the cracking sound of crepitus to the release of air bubbles between joints. This release of pressure can often feel relieving. However, if the crunching sound in your knee is accompanied by symptoms like pain and swelling, it could be signs of serious underlying issues. 

It can also be dangerous to endure knee crunching and popping sounds over a period of years. If crunching on your knee continues for long periods of time, it is possible for the cartilage in your to roughen. As a result, your risk of developing osteoarthritis can increase. 

When is a crunching sound in the knee serious?

While knee crunching may not point to a serious issue, you should see a medical professional if your knee cracking occurs every time you move. You should especially seek the advice of a medical professional if the crunching sound in your knee began after a fall, surgery or a blow to your joint. 

If you’re experiencing crunching in your knee along with any of the following symptoms, you should visit a health care professional for an examination and treatment:

  • Intense pain.
  • Swelling that persists for days.
  • Chronic stiffness.
  • Redness around the joint.
  • Difficulty walking, running, jumping or standing.

How can you treat the crunching sound in your knee?

While the constant crunching sound in your knee may be painless and may not be related to a serious injury or condition, it can be beneficial to visit a physical therapist for treatment. Physical therapists can help you identify the reasons behind crunching sounds in your knee and help you develop a treatment plan based on those reasons. To address your knee injury or condition, physical therapists can: 

  • Strengthen your knee joint — Physical therapists can work with you to strengthen the muscles around your knee to improve your structural support and flexibility. Stronger and more flexible muscles and soft tissue can help take some load off the joint, which may limit the wear and tear on your cartilage.

  • Improve your mobility — Often, chronic knee sounds can be accompanied by knee stiffness, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity. Physical therapists can manually move your knee in many directions in order to improve your range of motion over time. If the crunching sound in your knee is linked to excess scar tissue, physical therapists can help loosen that tissue through modalities like dry needling.

  • Offer safety tips — Your physical therapist can educate you on exercises to avoid and exercises you should continue, even after your therapy sessions. For example, your physical therapist may advise against high-impact exercise like running but advocate for low-impact exercise like cycling. These simple changes in your exercise routine can help you avoid placing extra strain on your knee joint. 

If you do have the symptoms of a more serious knee condition, physical therapy can help. Specialists can target your condition and guide you through a personalized treatment routine to help reduce your pain and improve the strength of your knee joint.

Address the source of your knee crepitus with help from Franklin Rehabilitation

Are you experiencing a crunching sound in your knee that has you concerned? Our team at Franklin Rehabilitation can help you address the issue. We can evaluate your knee to uncover the root cause of the crunching sounds. Then, our specialists can create a personalized physical therapy plan for you that’s designed to tackle your specific root cause.

Contact our team today for more information about treating knee pain or knee crunching.

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