Cracking … Popping … Crunching
These sounds are generally referred to as “crepitus”, which occurs when the patella and femur grate against one another. Crepitus can be the result of arthritis or weak or tight muscles.
Understanding Your Creaky Knees
In a healthy knee, cartilage functions as a cushion for your joints to move smoothly and comfortably. When cartilage is damaged or diminished, typically as a result of wear and tear, the bones grate against each other.
This grating can also happen when the kneecap is not aligned properly and the joint doesn’t track naturally. Your quadriceps are comprised of four muscles that merge at the kneecap. When one of these muscles is too weak or too tight, the entire alignment can be thrown off, which can destabilize your kneecap and cause damage to your knee.
Crepitus can be painful, but it isn’t always. However, it is usually an indicator of something more serious down the road.
What Causes Creaky Knees?
Some common causes of crepitus include
- Tightness of hamstrings
- Tightness of IT band
- Tightness of lateral retinaculum (the fibrous tissue on the lateral side of the kneecap; the kneecap has both a medial (inner) and lateral (outer) retinaculum, and they work together to help support the kneecap)
- Increased Q angle
- Pronation of the foot
- Weakness of the vastus medialis obliquus (inside of the thigh)
- Weak hip adductors
- Tight PSOAS muscle (lower back and hips), which inhibits the glut stabilization on heel contact
Take Care of Your Creaking Knees
The first steps to address creaking knees are:
- Identify what is causing the crepitus (tight hamstrings, weak hip adductors, etc.)
- Develop a management plan to address the root cause. This may include specific strengthening exercises or athletic therapy
- Take NSAIDS as needed
- Ice as needed
- Stabilization tools as needed (braces, tape, etc.)
- When all conservative methods fail, and if the patient is in pain, arthroscopy may be recommended
Need help identifying the cause of your weak knees? Give us a call at 478-474-2114.
Strengthen Your Creaky Knees
Strengthen your knee by strengthening the muscles that support it. Watch this short video for four exercises you can do regularly to strengthen the major muscles around your knee.
Promote a Lifetime of Fitness
If you are experiencing creaky knees, even if it is not painful, it is important to understand and address the root cause. Not addressing the issue could lead to further, irreparable damage down the road.
Chondromalacia of the Patella or Patella Femoral Stress Syndrome
Signs and Symptoms:
- Lateral deviation or tilting of the patellofemoral joint
- Mild swelling that increases with activity
- Mild pain that increases with activity
- Patient describes popping or creaking of the knee cap
- Usually has been going on a long time and recently the pain has increased, unrelated to activity
- Increase pain with patella grind test