Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What is That Sound?

My knee has been feeling great lately. I only have one complaint, a consistent crunching sound in my knee. When I bend my knee or climb steps there is a noise right above my kneecap. A noise that makes me want to grimace but not in pain. It is an unpleasant rice crispy sounding noise. The crackling has been increasing and I have attributed it to an increase in activity.

This morning I decided to research cracking knees on the internet. The cracking noise I am hearing is a normal result and can increase after joint surgery. It even has a name …. “crepitus”, a terrible sounding name for a terrible sound.

As explained on the Johns Hopkins Medical website:
These noises with movement of a joint, particularly the knee, may sound like folding stiff paper, and are called "crepitus". These noises are increased frequently after surgery on a joint, although the exact reason is not clear.

One theory is that the ligaments (tethers that hold the bones together) make these noises as they get tight rapidly when the joint is moving. In some instances, popping may be due to a tendon snapping over or around the joint. Another theory is that nitrogen bubbles in the fluid inside the joint are rapidly brought into or out of solution when the joint is manipulated, such as cracking the knuckles in the hand.

If I put my hand on my knee while it is bending, I can feel it bubbling. I am used to the occasional joint noise. My elbows hyper-extend, my shoulders slip out of socket and my right hip occasional goes out. Wow, putting that on paper makes me feel old but the truth is that my joints have always been this way. I remember sparring and being tapped on my arm during an exchange. I immediately fell to my knees in pain. A small tap in the perfect angle pushed my shoulder out of socket. After a few minutes, my shoulder slid back in to place. I felt bad for my sparring partner because he had no idea what happened. My elbows are challenging for self-defense partners because they do not stop where they should.

Whatever the cause, these sounds do not need to be specifically treated. There are no long term sequelae of these noises, and they do not lead to future problems. There is no basis for the admonition to not crack your knuckles because it can lead to arthritis. There are no supplements or exercises to prevent these noises.

I guess I do not need to worry about my noisy knee but I may need a pair of earplugs.

Please note that I am not a doctor nor am I dispensing medical advice.


BobSpar said...

Wow, I'm glad you were able to find an explanation, and it's benign. I would have been seriously worried.

Michele said...

I was worried because I did not want to wear out my knee. The noise increased with activity. I was surprised that there was a medical term for the noise in the knee.

Hack Shaft said...

I rejoice in both knees greeting me like old friends first thing in the morning, usually in stereo!

Miru Tamano Dianalan said...

Hi, I had my knee done January '08, and I my knee began to crack after surgery. Mine cracks every time I unfold it. How about yours?

My doctor said that I need to have an x-ray 'coz the knee might be swollen or something.

Michele said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog.

Even after 17 months, my knee still makes noise when I bend it. From what I hear (if there is no pain or swelling) this is just part of having an ACL reconstruction. An X-ray might be a good idea just to make sure everything is ok. Let me know how you make out with the x-ray.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Does your knee still make the noise? How does it feel?

Michele said...

Anonymous: Overall, my knee feels very good. Throughout my surgery and recovery, I had minimal pain. At 21 months, I do not have pain, rather my knee aches every so often. I can feel my knee on cold, damp days.

As for the noise....yes, it is still noisy (no pain). I notice it the most when I walk up stairs.

Renee said...

I've never had surgery on either knee, I have popped a knee out and back in playing soccer. I too have that odd sound, I described it as tin foil being balled up, it really just started in the last year. I do a job where I crawl around on my knees photography small children. Pretty sure this a huge reason this has started, they used to pop everytime I bent them, not anymore just "tin foiling it Now"

Charles James said...

You're hearing the crunch of loose cartilage.

shiva said...

i m happy to here that its not a much problem... thanks for the information

Barbie Chiu said...

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Unknown said...

Almost 3 years post ACL replacement, my knee makes all sorts of noises when bending- rice crispies is a good comparison, but no pain and no loss of functionality