Crackling, popping and crunchy noise in knee is extremely common when you bend your knees. In medical parlance the noise that you hear when you bend your knees back and forth is called ‘crepitus’. This type of sensation which can be heard or felt during movement or knee percussion does not necessarily mean that something is wrong with your knees.
Occasional crepitus in knee is normal. But if it is accompanied with pain, swelling or stiffness of knee joint it might be an indication of knee problems such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or damage to the cartilage.If you are experiencing crepitus with pain and inflammation in knee, consider medical consultation for evaluation and treatment of the underlying condition.
Causes Of Crepitus In Knee Joint
Among various joints, the knee is a large joint. It is a hinge joint consisting lower end of thigh bone (femur) and upper ends of lower leg bones called tibia and fibula. In front of the knee is a small convex bone called patella (knee cap). In between the bones there is a thick cartilage which acts as a cushion between the bones and prevents rubbing against each other.
There is a capsule covering the joint called synovial cartilage. It contains synovial fluid which acts as a lubricant. Sometime bubbles of gas form in the joint fluid due to change in pressure in the joint. These bubbles when they burst produce typical crackling noise.
Popping and crepitus can also be heard when the ligaments of the joint bump against the bone or when they snap back into their place. This noise is normal if they occur occasionally and they are painless.
More concerning is crepitus that is associated with pain and swelling of the joint. Several conditions can cause this problem. One of the common causes for crepitus with pain and swelling in knee joint is a condition called osteoarthritis. It usually is an aging disorder. People over the age of 50 are known to have osteoarthritis. It is caused due to damage to the cartilage and bone from daily wear and tear of the joint.
Crepitus in knee joint can occur due to meniscus tear. Those who play sports such as football and other impact sports frequently suffer from this injury.
Rheumatoid arthritis, Chondromalacia patella are other two conditions that have crepitus as one of its symptoms besides pain and stiffness in the knee joint.
Treatment Options For Crepitus In Knee
Normal crepitus that occurs without pain while stretching or bending the knee is not a cause of concern and no specific treatment is needed. However, if it is associated with pain and inflammation or stiffness, patient has to seek medical attention. Treatment is aimed at treating the underlying cause which produces pain and swelling along with popping sound.
In most cases anti inflammatory medicines are found beneficial in reducing pain and swelling. In case if there is excess of fluid accumulation, the doctor may aspirate the fluid from the capsule with the help of needle. It is done under aseptic precaution.
Physiotherapy exercises help to strengthen the muscles and ligaments that support the knee which increases joint mobility.
In severe cases knee joint replacement may be needed for osteoarthritis.
Several home remedies help to stop knee crepitus along with pain and swelling. Ice fomentation, knee braces, reduction in weight, and avoiding stressful activities such as frequent climbing stairs, jumping, etc can help in reducing pain as well as crepitus caused due to some organic cause such as osteoarthritis or meniscus tear.