When you walk down the street, climb a flight of stairs, or even sit down to watch your favorite television program, do you occasionally hear a clicking or “popping” sound coming from your knee? This is called knee clicking.
Knee clicking tends to occur when the joints are being extended, and at times, it can be accompanied by severe pain. The knee starts to click because, more often than not, there is a part of the knee that is not in its proper position.
As a result, there may be other portions of the leg that are being used more frequently to compensate for the part of the knee that’s out of place.
But I often get asked, “Why do I experience knee clicking? Should I be worried?”
Why Do We Experience Knee-Clicking?
There are various reasons why you can experience knee clicking. Below are some of the most common causes:
1. Unnecessary tissue around the knee: After a serious injury to the knee, if it is not treated or if it does not heal properly, you can develop unnecessary tissue or plica around the knee. When this happens, the tissue gets tangled between certain parts of the joint, which causes the clicking noise when you extend the joint.
2. Runner’s knee: You might think that constant running is beneficial for your health, but if you put a lot of stress on the tibia, you can develop runner’s knee. This occurs when the kneecap is out of line and does not track properly along the femur. The tibia and lower bones in the leg protect the kneecap, but when these bones are not aligned properly, the knee will click when you bend it.
3. Severe damage to the meniscus and shock absorber: The meniscus is a lubricator between the bones of your knee, and if damaged and not healed properly, the balance of your knee is thrown off and can also cause the knee to turn when you put force on it—this can cause the knee to develop a clicking sound.
4. Arthritis: Arthritis in your legs can spread to the knees. The knees can become inflamed and align differently, which will cause a clicking sound.
5. ACL tear and MCL tear: Both tears will cause the knee to click; the tears can also lead to chronic pain, knee stiffness, and tenderness.
Should You Be Worried about Knee Clicking?
In some cases, the knee clicking sound occurs when the knee is getting rid of excess air that is trapped in the joint. In other cases, the knee may actually be adjusting itself to its proper position, because of all the extra pressure and friction it is experiencing.
If there is no pain along with the clicking sound, then there probably isn’t any reason to worry. The only time you should really be worried about your knee clicking is if you experience severe pain along with it. Either way, it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor and schedule a thorough physical to get it checked.
Knee Clicking Exercising Tips
If you want to keep your knee strong, you need to exercise all aspects of your lower body:
- Exercising your quadriceps is essential if you want to keep your knee sturdy and protected. Certain exercises that require leg extensions or static contraction of the quads will strengthen this muscle.Try this exercise to strengthen the quads. Sit up tall on the floor and keep both legs straight. Place a rolled up towel underneath your right thigh, close to the knee. Bend your left knee; make sure your left foot is kept flat on the floor and that you do not lift your right thigh when bending your left knee. Complete four sets of 10 reps.
- The last thing you want is an imbalance between your hamstrings and your quads; this will make your knee more vulnerable to injury. You want to strengthen the back part of your hamstring to prevent this imbalance. One exercise that works well is a hamstring-strengthening contraction. To perform this, you will need to lie with your back pressed against the floor and have your knees bent at a 45-degree angle. Lift your toes off of the floor; press down with your knees when doing this so that the hamstring will contract. Complete four sets of 10 reps.
- A good accessory to have when strengthening the knee is an IT band. It provides resistance for the knee when you use the band to extend it. To use it efficiently, stretch the band behind both the left and right knee when you are standing.Bend your left knee while shifting your hips to the right. This will intensify the stretch; hold the position for 30 seconds for maximum results.
Sources for this Article:
“Knee Clicking,” MD-Health.com; http://www.md-health.com/Knee-Clicking.html, last accessed June 3, 2015.
Miller, S., “Exercises to Stop the Knees from Clicking,” Livestrong.com, January 6, 2014; http://www.livestrong.com/article/375105-exercises-to-remove-knee-clicking/.