Crepitus and Noisy Knees
Have you ever heard a crunching or crackling in your knees? Occasional snapping and popping when you bend your knees is usually no cause for concern, however, there are some signs to look out for that may indicate an underlying issue.
What is it
Medically known as “crepitus” these sounds that come from your joints can occur when you squat or move. It is caused by fluid in the knees that moves and causes small gas bubbles to burst and is usually not painful. Popping sounds can also occur if a tendon or ligament moves across the bone.
Neither sound caused by fluid movement or ligament movement should be a cause for concern as it does not cause damage and is simply the result of the position of the body and its movement.
If your knee is creating a grinding, rubbing, crunching or crackling sound, it is likely that there is damaged or deteriorated cartilage and can be serious. This is because cartilage is designed to protect connect your bones and protect them when they move. They also provide flexibility in our joints. When cartilage is worn down, it no longer protects the bones which result in friction between the joints.
It is advised that you seek medical attention from your doctor or physiotherapist as soon as possible if you experience these symptoms, especially if pain or swelling accompanies the sound.
Risk factors that can increase the likelihood of crepitus include being overweight, previous injury, family history of arthritis, an inactive lifestyle and inflammation and swelling of joints.
Some of the best ways to prevent or improve crepitus are looking after your diet and exercise.
By maintaining a healthy weight and ensuring at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, your joints will have less weight to carry and will get enough movement to keep them healthy.
Foods that contain lots of omega 3 fatty acids and collagen are also known to aid in preventing or easing the effects of crepitus and joint pain.
What if I have crepitus?
There are many non-invasive and surgical options for treating crepitus. If crepitus is bothering you, remember to first contact your physiotherapist as each case is different and may require different treatment.
Some non-invasive treatments that your physio may prescribe or recommend include:
The RICE method
RICE stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. Resting the area reduces the
Bracing or splinting
Bracing or splinting the knee can help in immobilizing the area temporarily and can help realign the joint if it is out of place. This will allow the joint to heal without further injury if required.
Custom orthotics are tailored shoe inserts that are designed to help reduce pain by supporting your feet properly and aiding in distributing weight evenly. Shoe inserts can aid in pain while helping you stay active.
Physical therapy provided by a physiotherapist can be extremely useful as it is specially designed for each patient.
Hot and Cold Therapy
Applying a warm compress or cold pack to the knee if it is sore or painful. This method can also aid in reducing inflammation of the joint if required.
Over the counter medications for pain relief or swelling reduction may be advised if necessary. However, if pain worsens or over the counter medications are not enough, stronger pain medications may be prescribed.
While most cases of crepitus can be eased and managed with non-invasive treatments, some patients with serious cases may require surgery. Some surgical methods that your doctor and physiotherapist may recommend include arthroscopic surgery, debridement and joint replacement.
Arthroscopic surgery is minimal and uses small instruments inserted through small incisions to access the joint. Debridement involves smoothing damaged cartilage to reduce rubbing. Joint replacement involves using surgery to implant an artificial joint in place of a damaged joint.
If you suspect that you have crepitus and it is affecting your physical activity or causing pain, do not hesitate to contact a physiotherapist. It is important that crepitus is treated early so that there is no further damage to cartilage and bone.