What Causes Knee Clicking?

Knee Clicking

If your knees occasionally make noise, such as clicking, popping, cracking, or grinding sounds, it might be alarming, but it is probably not a cause for concern. Joint noise (crepitus) is very common and often caused by a process known as cavitation. Essentially, a change in joint pressure allows carbon dioxide, which is normally dissolved in the lubricating synovial fluid, to form tiny air bubbles. These bubbles create small spaces that close up quickly (pop) when the joint moves, sometimes emitting a clicking sound.

With that said, if knee clicking is persistent or accompanied by pain, swelling, stiffness, instability, or locking, it important to see a physician to have it checked out. In addition to cavitation, knee clicking can be caused by:

  • Meniscal tears — The meniscus is a rubbery, C-shaped disc that cushions the knee and serves as a shock-absorber. A meniscal tear can result from sudden twisting or a direct blow to the knee.
  • Worn cartilage (osteoarthritis) — Due to ongoing wear and tear or age-related degeneration, the protective cartilage that lines the knee joint can begin to break down and wear away. Sometimes, a piece of cartilage can break loose and become lodged in the joint.
  • Runner’s knee — Also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, this overuse injury occurs when the kneecap is forced out of alignment and does not track properly along the thigh bone (femur).
  • Ligament damage — An injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), or medial collateral ligament (MCL) can damage the knee structure, limit its range of motion, and render it unstable.
  • Excess tissue around a knee joint — Sometimes, if a knee injury is left untreated or does not heal properly, scar tissue can develop and obstruct the movement of the joint.

There are also other, less common causes of knee clicking. This further underscores the importance of seeking prompt medical attention if any questionable symptoms occur. An accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment can prevent extensive knee damage and help you return to your daily activities as soon as possible.

If you have questions about your bone and joint health or you are experiencing knee pain, please feel free to contact or visit South Tampa Immediate Care. No appointments are ever necessary to see a doctor at our walk-in clinic.