Why do my knees crack?

When you get out of bed in the morning, do your knees make a cracking sound? Or maybe when you’re running or doing weight training in the gym? This is a fairly common experience and in most cases it’s no cause for alarm, however, sometimes knee popping can mean something more serious. What causes it and is there anything that can be done to prevent it?

Why do my knees crack?

Joint noise is very common and unless it is associated with pain or swelling, there’s typically nothing to worry about. The cracking or popping sound is due to small air bubbles that build up in joint fluid by changes in joint pressure. When these bubbles burst, they make a noise called cavitation.

Other painless knee popping can be caused when tendons and ligaments catch as they go over a bony lump and create a popping noise when they go back into place. The cracking sound may also be caused by catching scar tissue or soft tissue on the knee.

When should I be concerned?

If cracking in your knee persists with pain or swelling, this may mean an injury has occurred and it would be important to consult your doctor. If you feel like something is being caught as your knee moves, this could be the sign of loose cartilage or a meniscus tear.

Other causes may include Osteoarthritis. When the worn down cartilage and bone rub together, this can cause a persistent and painful cracking sound.

Causes for greater concern include hearing a popping sound at the time of injury. In most cases, you injured a ligament and you will experience pain and swelling in your knee. This may require more extensive care and future follow-up to correct the problem.

How can I prevent it?

The trick to a healthy knee is keeping the muscles surrounding the joint strong and flexible. This will help keep you from injury and you’ll have less of a chance of pain or swelling. Here are a few ways to avoid persistent knee cracking:

Warm-Up
Before exercise, it’s important to warm up and stretch out your cold muscles first. If you’re going into an intense workout, cold muscles and joints can lead to injury. Start by stretching your muscles for 30 seconds, especially the front and back of your thigh (your quadriceps and hamstrings), and ease into your workout with slow movements until you’re warmed up.

Exercise
Exercises that keep your knee healthy include bodyweight movements like squats and lunges. It’s important to keep proper form when doing these exercises or it could put unnecessary strain on your knees and lead to injury. Hiking up hills, walking up stairs, or riding a stationary bike are also great exercises to build your leg muscles and support your knees and joints.

Soft Tissue Work
Your knees could be popping from trigger points which can cause pain in your joints. These knots can be relieved by using a tennis ball or foam roller to put pressure on the soft tissue. Massage these trigger points to release built-up pressure, and while you’re at it, go ahead and roll out your entire leg for best results.

Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight reduces stress on your knees and joints. A major risk for arthritis of the knee is caused by unhealthy weight. Reduce inflammation in your joints by eating a diet rich in leafy greens, fruits, fish, almonds, whole grains, lean proteins, and spices like ginger and curry. By keeping a healthy weight through diet and exercise, you’ll reduce unnecessary stress on your joints.

Knee cracking is a common and normal occurrence which is no cause for alarm. However, to keep your knees healthy and strong to avoid future injury, make sure to strengthen your leg and joint muscles and consult a doctor if pain or swelling persists. By taking these precautions you can avoid painful cracking in your knees and keep your joints healthy and injury free.