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I hear you clicking but you can't come in!

Knee joints are unique in that they are one of the few joints in the body that you can hear “click”. In fact, there are many times that you can hear someone else’s knee click when you walk beside them. Why does that happen? How does that happen? That is what we want to explore in more detail today.

Knees make noise for a variety of reasons. The knee can click normally without any disorders being present. One reason for this is that there is a protective tissue covering that surrounds the knee called the joint capsule. The capsule contains a lubricating fluid within it. That fluid keeps the cartilage surfaces of the knee moist and lubricated. Sometimes tiny air bubbles accumulate in that fluid and when the joint moves the change in fluid pressure causes them to break. This sounds like a crunching sound but causes no damage whatsoever. Scan the QR code on your device to see and hear the video of the knee cracking.


Clicking reason number two


A second reason for the clicking sound could be due to a thick fibrous band that extends from your hip to the outside of your knee. If that band is slightly stretched, it could make a noise as it slides over the boney structures on the outside of the knee. The sound itself is not significant and often there is no pain. If there is pain present with this condition it is called Runner’s knee or Iliotibial band syndrome. This is a condition that we treat in the office with various therapies, stretches, nutrition, and manipulations. The results usually occur very quickly and generally have no significant residual issues.




Clicking reason number three


The third reason a clicking sound can occur is from a fold of the joint capsule that becomes caught between the two joint surfaces in the knee. This click can, at times, be felt when the knee is flexed (bent) fully and then extended. This will usually be found in the front of the knee just to one side or the other of the knee cap. Most times this click is painless, but on the rare times that it is painful it is called a Plica syndrome. It signifies no real damage to the knee.




Clicking reason number 4


The last cause of clicking in the knee we will talk about today is the most serious of the causes we have talked about thus far. This cause can, but does not have to, result in a noise that comes from your knee with movement. This cause of knee sounds can also cause pain as well as a restriction of the ability of the knee to move. This cause is known as a torn meniscus. The meniscus is the cartilage that resides between the two boney surfaces of the knee. It has a figure “8” shape to it and is structured like a racetrack with banked turns. When too much pressure or force is driven into the knee, it can result in a tear on the more central and thinner portion of the cartilage. This can result in pain as well as possibly a locking of the knee. This condition usually results in a surgical intervention.




How serious is all this clicking?


Remember, most noises that come from the knee are nothing to worry about. When there is pain associated with the noise coming from the knee, there is usually nothing major that you need to be concerned about. Pain in the knee always requires attention and locking of the knee indicates a more serious condition. If you have any questions regarding these types of knee conditions, please feel free to contact us.

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