Why Are My Knees So Noisy?

Those pops and clicks you hear coming from your knees may be the sound of arthritis beginning to take hold. In a new study led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, people ages 45 to 79 who had an increased risk of osteoarthritis and had x-ray evidence of osteoarthritis. Those who experienced frequent joint noises, called crepitus, were more likely to develop knee osteoarthritis symptoms within a year.

The researchers suggest that frequent complaints of knee grating, cracking, or popping might warrant an X-ray even if there’s no pain. It’s important to note, though, that the study participants all had a high risk of developing arthritis related to such factors as aging, obesity, or a previous knee injury.

The study was published in the May 2017 issue of Arthritis Care and Research.

And it’s also normal to hear occasional knee joint sounds that aren’t signs of arthritis. In the study of nearly 3,500 adults, 11 percent of people who said their knees were always making sounds developed arthritis symptoms, such as pain and stiffness, within a year. About 8 percent who complained of noisy knees often or sometimes developed symptoms within the year. Only 4.5 percent of people who reported no knee popping or cracking developed arthritis.

How to protect your knees

If you don’t have knee pain but are concerned about noisy knees, see your doctor. If arthritis is evident on an X-ray, early interventions like losing excess weight and avoiding high-impact activities that may put your knees at risk for injury could help keep symptoms at bay. Activities like cycling or swimming can strengthen the muscles around the knee to help stabilize the joint.

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Barbara Van Tine
Meet Our Writer
Barbara Van Tine

Barbara Van Tine is the editor of the University of California, Berkeley, Health After 50 newsletter.