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Knee clicking, clunking – what’s that noise?

| By Dr Debbie Tan (Chiropractor)

Female runner knee injury and pain.

Do you sometimes get clicking when you bend your knees, when you get out of bed or when you run? There could be a number of things happening, let’s discuss a few causes:

Cartilage damage:
The knee joint has a shock absorber, called the meniscus. When there is damage to the meniscus, some of the cartilage may flake off. Sometimes this may cause pain, sometimes it may be painless. This may be one of the causes of the noise that occurs during knee movement.1

Ligament damage:
As the knee joint is supported by ligaments, it is common for knee injuries to result in ligament damage. When ligaments are damaged, it will not hold the joint to its full integrity. Therefore, it may rub or flick across the joint when the knee is moving.2,3

Muscle damage:
The knee joint is comprised of the quad, calf and hamstring muscles. When damage does occur to the knee in these muscles, it may affect the muscle patterning and flick over the joint, thus making a noise.4,5

Bone damage:
It is common to have wear and tear in a knee joint. However, this is not normal. A popping or cracking sound may be the first sign of certain knee diseases such as osteoarthritis. Sometimes people also develop extra bony growths around the knee – which can be felt on touch or via x-ray imaging.6 Hence if there is both knee sounds and pain, it is best to get checked for any abnormalities.

Some of the above causes can be painful. If you are suffering from a noisy knee and are experiencing pain, please seek help from your allied health professional. Chiropractic treatment have been found to be effective in reducing knee pain.7 Chiropractors employ the use of manipulation, mobilisation, exercise and soft tissue therapy. The knee is a strong joint area when all components are working correctly, thus it is important to make sure the joints above and below – the pelvis and feet, are aligned so that it doesn’t wear down the knee.

If you are suffering from a noisy knee, take note of when the noise occurs – what time of the day, what activity you are conducting, how often in occurs and if there is any pain involved. This will help you allied health professional in diagnosing your condition.

  1. Brindle T, Nyland J, Johnson DL. The meniscus: review of basic principles with application to surgery and rehabilitation. J Athl Train [serial on the Internet]. 2001 [2016 Sep 25];36(2):160-9. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC155528/?tool=pmcentrez
  2. Hartnett NI, Tregonning RJA. Delay in diagnosis of anterior cruciate ligament injury in sport. New Zealand Med J [serial online]. 2001 [2016 Sep 25];114(1124):11-3. Available from: ProQuest. http://search.proquest.com
  3. Daniel DM, 1939, Pedowitz RA, O’Connor, John J. 1934- (John Joseph), Akeson WH, 1928. Daniel’s knee injuries: ligament and cartilage: structure, function, injury, and repair. 2;2nd; ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2003.
  4. McKinley MP, O’Loughlin VD, Pennefather-O’Brien E, Harris RT. Human anatomy. Fourth ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education; 2015.
  5. Donatelli R. Sports-specific rehabilitation. 1st ed. St. Louis, Mo: Churchill Livingstone; 2007;2006;.
  6. Schiphof D, van Middelkoop M, de Klerk B, Oei E, Hofman A, Koes B, et al. Crepitus is a first indication of patellofemoral osteoarthritis (and not of tibiofemoral osteoarthritis). Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2014;22(5):631-8. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2014.02.008
  7. Brantingham JW, Globe GA, Globe DR, Jensen ML, Cassa TK, Price JL, et al. A Feasibility Study Comparing Two Chiropractic Protocols in the Treatment of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. J Manipulative Physiol Ther [serial online]. 2009 [2016 Sep 25];32(7):536-48. Available from: ScienceDirect. http://www.sciencedirect.com/

Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should contact your own physician or other qualified health can provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it based on information from this content. Relying on information provided by this content is done at your own risk. Although the authors have made every effort to provide the most up-to-date evidence-based health information, this content should not necessarily be considered the standard of care and may not reflect individual practices in other geographic locations.

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