Noises around your knee

Noises around your knee can be described using various terms, including popping, snapping, catching, clicking, crunching, cracking, crackling, grating and clunking. Collectively these noises are referred to as crepitus and can be pathological or physiological in nature.

Physiological noises of the knee normally have no clear onset and no associated symptoms when clicking. They have a sporadic nature and are due to air build up in the joint. But what do the noises mean? Crepitus in the absence of any history of injury may indicate cartilage lesions in osteoarthritis or inflammatory arthritis, or may simply be ligaments catching.

However, with pathological noises you may remember a pop or traumatic onset, whether acute or chronic, that was accompanied by pain, swelling and injury. Friction between articulating surfaces gives rise to various types of vibrations causing noise emissions through the tissues.

Many of us hear the occasional pop, snap or crackle when you bend or straighten your knees, or when you walk up or downstairs. In most cases the noises aren’t a problem, however, if you have pain or restricted movement it is worth getting your chiropractor to assess your knees.

Causes of Pathological noises

The causes of pathological noises can be degenerative changes and can indicate damage. Below are a few possible causes:

Meniscus tears are common in people that play a sport or run. Meniscus tears can cause noises around your knee as the joint moves.

Chondromalacia patella is when you have damage to the underside of your knee cap. It will often present as a dull ache in the front of the knee and is usually caused by overuse

Patellofemoral syndrome occurs from to much force on the patella and quadriceps. It can involve crunching or grating noises. Patellofemoral syndromes can be common in teenagers that play a lot of sport.

Postoperative noise can be caused by inflammation and impingement after arthroscopy and it is important that you inform your surgeon of the crepitus.

What to do about the crepitus/noises around your knee

See your chiropractor at Hands On Health Care Clinic. If there is no associated pain with the noise it can wait till your next scheduled appointment. However, if you have pain coinciding with the cracking or popping then you need to ‘pop’  into the clinic sooner (excuse the pun). The noise is a common symptom of osteoarthritis or may accompany several types of knee injury, or could be a muscle imbalance such as tight hip flexors or TFL. Your chiropractor will be able to assess all of this and advise you of the appropriate treatment. Depending on the cause the knee crepitus may continue however treatment will offer a decrease of pain and an increase in function of the joint.

Chiropractic care has been shown to be an effective and conservative approach to knee pain and crepitus from a variety of causes. Your chiropractor is trained in assessing and diagnosing your musculoskeletal concerns. A combination of manipulation, soft tissue work, dry needles or machine therapy, rehabilitative stretches and exercises to maintain joint function.

What if my other joints click? Like my neck or my ankle?

Your chiropractor is highly trained to assess all the joints and muscle in the body, we regularly treat everything from toes and ankles to spines and necks. Joints with damage and arthritis generally respond well to chiropractic care and we happily refer out if we feel a Dr or surgeon will be better suited to your condition.

Just book in and let us help you to start feeling better.


Knee Noises, Song et al. Clinics in Orthopedic Surgery, Vol. 10 No1, 2018


August 24, 2020
Georgina Smith