Cracking knees – crepitations and their causes

Cracking knees and hips are a fairly common occurrence and don’t necessarily mean that anything is wrong. If you are not experiencing any pain in connection with the cracking, it is completely harmless in many cases. This type of sound you hear is called “crepitations” in medical parlance.

The knee is a complicated joint that is subject to major strain every day. Many of us sometimes have pains in our knees after exertion, which is completely natural. What isn’t natural is excessively cracking knees combined with continuous pain. There may be numerous causes for having pains in your knees. For instance, it may be due to overexertion, meniscal injuries or bursitis (inflammation of the bursa). This may also be down to osteoarthritis.

Loose cartilage fragments or meniscal injury

Cracking knees can also be caused by the presence of loose cartilage or bone fragments in the joint. A loose cartilage fragment in the knee not only causes cracking, but can also sometimes make the knee lock. Loose cartilage fragments also cause pain which moves around. The most suitable treatment for this injury is keyhole surgery to remove the loose cartilage fragment.

Meniscal injuries can also cause problems with cracking knees. They can either occur as an acute condition or develop gradually over a long period. Acute injuries occur, for instance, after a sudden twist to the knee. On the other hand, injuries that have developed over a longer period mean that the meniscus has been subject to wear and tear for several years, which is known as a degenerative meniscal injury. Minor meniscal injuries can heal themselves with the help of rehabilitation exercises and rest. Major injuries may require intervention in the form of surgery. Degenerative meniscal injuries are often treated with exercise.

Read more about different knee problems at knäsmä

Osteoarthritis can cause cracking knees

If you have a crunching sound coming from your knees, this may also be due to osteoarthritis or any form of arthritis. Arthritis is a category of several different conditions. The various diagnoses for this have the common feature that they are inflammatory joint diseases which cause pain and swelling. Two types of arthritis are the autoimmune, chronic and inflammatory condition rheumatoid arthritis (often RA for short) and reactive arthritis. Reactive arthritis is a secondary disease resulting from an infection, which means that inflammation occurs in a joint due to a hyperactive immune system. Arthritis conditions are generally treated with anti-inflammatory medicines, a cortisone injection in the joint or using different types of biopharmaceuticals that moderate the body’s immune system.

Osteoarthritis is another joint disease that can cause cracking knees. Apart from the cracking and crunching sounds, the other symptoms are stiffness and pain. Swelling can be a symptom but, unlike with rheumatoid arthritis, the joints do not become red and warm from this. Osteoarthritis is also a chronic joint disease where the cartilage breaks down in the affected joint. The treatment involves physical exercise, which can ease and slow down the progression of the disease.

Diagnosis with the help of crunching in the knees

Injuries or conditions affecting the knee can be both silent and noisy. Inflamed or overexerted muscle tendons can produce a cracking sound, whereas a condition like osteoarthritis can cause cracking knees. However, a doctor cannot only go on how the knee sounds when making a diagnosis as there are several different injuries and conditions that have crunching knees and cracking joints as symptoms.

If you have crunching or cracking knees, it may mean that the joint cartilage is affected. Conditions that attack the joint cartilage are, for instance, inflammatory joint diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and degenerative joint diseases like osteoarthritis.

Read more about cracking hips.