Find out what’s causing that painful clicking in your knee — and how to treat it.
You may have heard clicking sounds coming from your knee, but if they’re not accompanied by pain, there’s usually nothing to worry about. In many cases, cartilage covering the bones in the joint may be uneven and cause clicking sounds when you sit or stand. This is common and generally not a sign of a serious orthopedic condition.
However, if you experience intense discomfort along with the clicking, it may be time to visit an orthopedic specialist. In this case, the clicking sound may be attributed to an injury or degeneration of the cartilage in the joint.
Here are three common reasons why your knee might click.
Wedged between the thigh bone (femur) and the tibia (the long bone in the lower leg) is a stabilizing cushion of cartilage called the meniscus. A sudden twist of the knee while playing sports can lead to a rupture. Or, as the cartilage thins due to age, it may tear without any trauma at all. At the moment of the tear, you may hear a popping sound followed by clicking.
Treatment depends on the severity of the rupture, but the first step is generally RICE therapy: rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the leg. Meniscus tears respond well to physical therapy, especially for older patients. For younger, more active patients, arthroscopic surgery can trim and repair the cartilage so the joint is less susceptible to early onset arthritis.
Common among dedicated runners, chondromalacia patella, or runner’s knee, is characterized by pain in the front of the knee or a clicking sensation when flexing the joint. Regular running sometimes pulls the patella (kneecap) out of alignment because the muscles surrounding it are either too tight or too loose, ultimately causing pain and clicking.
The first line of treatment for runner’s knee is physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the knee and hips. Rest and anti-inflammatory medications reduce pain and swelling, as will a brace and ice therapy. Surgery is rarely performed, except in cases of a severely dislocated kneecap.
Degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis mostly affect older adults as the cartilage in the joint gradually wears away, leaving the bones of the knee to rub against each other. Osteoarthritis not only causes pain, but also leads to clicking noises and loss of motion.
Physical therapy exercises center on making the muscles surrounding the joint and the joint itself stronger. Anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, braces, and lubricant injections are also part of an effective treatment plan. Patients may be advised to lose weight, since extra pounds put more pressure on the knee joint. If conservative treatment fails or the knee continues to buckle, arthroscopic surgery or a knee replacement may be necessary.
Visit a Knee Specialist
At New York Bone & Joint Specialists, we treat all types of orthopedic disorders, including traumas and degenerative diseases of the knee. If your knee has become painful due to age or injury, it’s time to book an appointment with our staff. We can recommend effective treatment options and get you back on track.