So your knee joints crackle and pop … and you don’t eat Rice Bubbles?
Musical knees are experienced by many people. The sound you hear when your knee joints crackle and pop is gas escaping from the synovial fluid surrounding the joint. It can occur when a force, through movement or exertion, is placed on that joint. It doesn’t have to be a large force either. The technical term for this sudden and forced escape of gas is called “crepitus”. Think, cracking your knuckles.
It can happen to people of all ages and in most cases is not harmful.
Having knee joints that crackle and pop regularly can occur because of the misalignment of the knee cap (patella) and knee joint itself. Knee joint misalignment is often caused by misaligned feet or hips and is why at the Foot and Leg Centre’s, we also assess what’s happening in the feet and the hips to determine the cause.
If your knee joints crackle and pop is just crepitus, don’t be afraid to use the joint. This is what I was afraid of doing because I thought I’d be doing more damage if I did exercise these areas. However not exercising and strengthening my legs and knees was actually making my knee problems worse. Having weak muscles above and below the knees exacerbates the instability within your knees making the crackle and pop worse.
The key is to find the right exercises that work for your physiology
From my own experience and what I have learnt these simple steps may help:
1) First seek preventative advice from your structural expert to ensure that the joints above and below the knee joints are sitting in their correct anatomical position. I don’t see any point in starting a leg strengthening program if the foot and leg structures aren’t sitting correctly in the first place, because you are then training the muscles to hold these structures in an incorrect position.
2) Warm up and stretch before exercising. This will help to loosen up tight muscles and warm the muscles up to make them more elastic and receptive to exercising and will help to prevent muscle injury.
3) Perform leg strengthening exercises for muscles around the knees (Quadriceps, Hamstrings and Calf muscles) that will help to stabilise the knee joint and offer support.
4) Stretch and cool down after exercise to help remove the build up of lactic acid in the muscles and stretch out tired, tense and sore muscles.
5) Add alternative therapies into your routine. Massage and stretching classes, such as yoga, will help to loosen tight muscles that can pull on the joints adding to the instability of the knee joint and will help promote greater flexibility of the muscles.
Here’s what not to do if your knee joints crackle and pop
Although leg strengthening exercises are fantastic to help support the knee joint and keep the patella centred it’s vital to maintain correct form throughout the exercise. Correct form will always be more important than the number of repetitions you perform.
Use your structural/movement expert for advice on the correct techniques before performing them. Exercise apps are a very popular tool for getting exercises to do at home. The challenge is choosing the exercises that are right for you and that don’t exacerbate the problem. Again they also need to be done correctly. Squats and lunges are two examples of leg strengthening exercises that are fantastic to use BUT they MUST be performed correctly otherwise they can cause further wear and tear within the knee joint.
Before starting a new exercise program at home or at gym, seek advice from your professional first and advise them of your “clicky” knees. They will then advise you on the most suitable exercises to perform, the correct technique and what exercises to avoid. The knee extension machine is one example of an exercise that “clicky” or problematic knees should avoid.
Most importantly if you get pain or you are unsure what is safe to do STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING! – If it’s not just crepitus in your knee joints increased force on the knees can exacerbate the underlying problem.
When to seek help for your knee joints crackle and pop!
Unchecked, the misalignment of any joint can result in the uneven wear and tear of the surfaces of the bones within that joint, leading to earlier degeneration. Inflammation and pain can develop over time. If corrective or preventative action is not taken this can lead to irreversible damage, the development of arthritis, or even fusion within the effected joint; subsequently leading to decreased mobility, health and happiness.
If you are experiencing knee pain and/or swelling/inflammation in combination with crepitus, please consult your expert in structural movement as soon as possible, because when it’s more than just crepitus, pop and crackle, it can indicate a knee injury such as a meniscus tear or cartilage injury.
EARLY INTERVENTION is the key to a speedier and more effective recovery.
Seeking help early will empower you to self-manage a smaller more manageable problem before it becomes a bigger problem where invasive intervention is the only option.