Written by Sadie Wirthlin
A common complaint about exercise comes when individuals experience a popping or cracking sound in their knees. This popping may cause worry, especially for those who have had previous knee trouble, but don’t worry—most the time, this sound is harmless! There are additional symptoms that determine if your popping is more serious, but here’s some guidance to help you know what to do.
Knee popping and cracking can happen often during exercise, such as every time you do a squat. This knee noise is called crepitus, which is the release and popping of gas bubbles in the synovial fluid surrounding the knee, and it is common in all ages.
A study done by Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research showed that, even in people who have had knee surgery, crepitus is nothing to worry about.
In order to tell if your knee noise is more serious than simple gas bubbles, take notice to see if there is any pain associated with your popping. Sometimes crepitus can be joint structures rubbing against each other, which is a sign of knee problems to come. This rubbing can be caused by poor kneecap alignment, which ultimately wears down protective cartilage within the joint. Specialist and senior vice president of Professional Physical Therapy in New York, Tony D’Angelo, says that this wear and tear on your knee can become very painful and lead to arthritis.
A study published in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage also revealed that crepitus coupled with pain is a sign of patellofemoral joint lesions and future osteoarthritis. Knee osteoarthritis affects 10% of men and 13% of women who are 60 years of age and older.
Experts say that if individuals are experiencing this type of crepitus pain, you should seek out medical attention and, for the time being, discontinue straining exercises. To promote healing, it is important to incorporate knee-stabilizing exercises and to work on increasing knee function by strengthening the quadriceps and glutes; these particular muscle groups help center the patella (knee cap).
Commonly recommended exercises for the quadriceps are lunges and squats, but proper performance is necessary. “Focus on not letting the knee cave in toward your opposite leg or out to the side. Your shin should always stay perpendicular to the floor.” Sitting back into the glutes instead of placing your weight on your knees can also help avoid extra knee strain. For the glutes, try some hip abduction exercises to help support the knee.
It is also recommended to avoid machines like the knee extension. Machines like this can place more stress on the undersurface of the kneecap and can further irritate cartilage. Keep listening to your knees and make sure they are getting the strength and care they need!
Source: Is it Bad That My Knees Crack when I Exercise? K. Aleisha Fetters. June 17, 2016. Health.usnews.com.