It’s quite common to experience popping in your knee. However, if you are experiencing knee pain and popping, there could be an injury.
Significant forces operate on the knee every day, as it’s responsible for connecting the two longest mechanical levers in the entire body: the upper and lower leg. It’s no surprise knee problems are responsible for over a third of our patient visits.
A knee works like a large hinge. It consists of ligaments, bones, cartilage, and the synovial membrane.
Ligaments: There are four ligaments in each knee. Each is tough, flexible bands that stretch across the surface of the joints, connecting the bones.
Bones: The knee joints the upper leg (femur) to the lower leg (tibia). The smaller bone behind the tibia is called the fibula and is also connected to the joint. The kneecap (patella) is the front of the knee and is a shield to the joint.
Synovial Membrane: A connective tissue that lines the joints and tendons. Synovial fluid lubricates the joints.
Cartilage: There are two thick pads of cartilage that cushion the tibia and femur. Its purpose is to reduce friction.
The most common cause of popping in the knee without pain is air bubbles (similar to when you crack your knuckles). Or, the natural sound of your ligaments and tendons stretching as you move around.
Popping in your knee can also be a sign of injury. If popping in your knee is new to you, we recommend seeing your doctor as pain could be following shortly after. Common causes of knee pain and popping include
While the common causes of knee pain and popping we talked about above should be diagnosed and treated by a professional, we do recommend a few things for the initial treatment of your pain.
The R.I.C.E method is an immediate action that should be taken after an injury of the knee or ankle, for example. Its purpose is to relieve pain and swelling and to promote healing and flexibility with rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
In addition to rest, ice, compression, and elevation, your medical professional may advise that you utilize a brace to prevent your knee from moving and to help you reduce discomfort. Crutches may also be prescribed depending on the type of brace and the particular patient’s living conditions.
Sometimes, a popping sensation in the knee indicates instability and furthermore indicates the need for stronger surrounding muscles to support it. Physical therapy exercises to strengthen around the knee can strongly assist in stabilizing the area, preventing injury.
A physical therapist is a movement expert who will use a variety of methods to heal your knee pain and popping. He or she may use, for your unique treatment:
The benefit of working with a physical therapist is that he or she will comprehensively assess the knee (including conducting tests and asking relevant questions), and work one-on-one with you through the process. Any pain you are feeling, any discomfort can be discussed with your physical therapist and he or she will adjust to meet your needs.
Click here to watch a quick and easy do-it-at-home video for knee pain!
Regularly stretch the muscles that surround your knee. Gently stretching your calf, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and butt muscles helps to promote flexibility and joint mobility. Studies have shown that staying flexible is the key to healthy joints as you age.
Maintain a healthy weight. Being above a healthy weight for your body puts stress on all your joints, especially on your knees. This excess stress on your joints can increase your risk of osteoarthritis, and studies have sown that people who are overweight tend to have weaker quadriceps muscles that support the knee.
Keep surrounding muscles strong. Keeping your muscles strong overall helps to protect your joints, including your knees. Physical therapy can help to keep your muscles strong through simple and specific exercises. After all, strong core muscles are the foundation of a good posture and healthy skeletal alignment. Strong hip, leg, and butt muscles are especially important for taking extra pressure off of the knees.
Remember, if you are experiencing popping in your knee without pain, it’s probably nothing. To be sure you should always see a medical professional to prevent pain from appearing, however. If you are experiencing knee pain and popping, see your medical professional. Doing so can prevent further, more serious injury.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help increase your flexibility and strengthen the muscles that support your knee. Although knee problems can sometimes require the skills of surgery, your doctor will most likely recommend non-surgical options before that. In either case, physical therapy can help you with your knee pain and popping sensation.