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What is That Sound?

Posted Aug 24 2008 9:48pm
My knee has been feeling great lately. I only have one complaint, a consistent crunching sound in my knee. When I bend my knee or climb steps there is a noise right above my kneecap. A noise that makes me want to grimace but not in pain. It is an unpleasant rice crispy sounding noise. The crackling has been increasing and I have attributed it to an increase in activity.

This morning I decided to research cracking knees on the internet. The cracking noise I am hearing is a normal result and can increase after joint surgery. It even has a name …. “crepitus”, a terrible sounding name for a terrible sound.

As explained on the Johns Hopkins Medical website:

These noises with movement of a joint, particularly the knee, may sound like folding stiff paper, and are called "crepitus". These noises are increased frequently after surgery on a joint, although the exact reason is not clear.

One theory is that the ligaments (tethers that hold the bones together) make these noises as they get tight rapidly when the joint is moving. In some instances, popping may be due to a tendon snapping over or around the joint. Another theory is that nitrogen bubbles in the fluid inside the joint are rapidly brought into or out of solution when the joint is manipulated, such as cracking the knuckles in the hand.

If I put my hand on my knee while it is bending, I can feel it bubbling. I am used to the occasional joint noise. My elbows hyper-extend, my shoulders slip out of socket and my right hip occasional goes out. Wow, putting that on paper makes me feel old but the truth is that my joints have always been this way. I remember sparring and being tapped on my arm during an exchange. I immediately fell to my knees in pain. A small tap in the perfect angle pushed my shoulder out of socket. After a few minutes, my shoulder slid back in to place. I felt bad for my sparring partner because he had no idea what happened. My elbows are challenging for self-defense partners because they do not stop where they should.

Whatever the cause, these sounds do not need to be specifically treated. There are no long term sequelae of these noises, and they do not lead to future problems. There is no basis for the admonition to not crack your knuckles because it can lead to arthritis. There are no supplements or exercises to prevent these noises.

I guess I do not need to worry about my noisy knee but I may need a pair of earplugs.

Please note that I am not a doctor nor am I dispensing medical advice.

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