Knee clicking could be a harmless sound or a sign of an impending knee condition. Knee problems in general can be quite debilitating and can grow with age. Our knees truly take a beating, as they not only help us move around, but also bear our body weight, which can be quite a stress.
There are many reasons for knee clicking and it’s important to pay attention to your knee clicking sounds in order to determine when it’s the time to seek medical attention.
Here are some things to consider. For starters, is there pain associated with your knee clicking? If you do have pain, is it constant or does it improve after your knee clicks? Have you recently injured your knee? Does the pain worsen after periods of activity or walking? These are all important questions to not only ask yourself but bring to your doctor’s attention in order to help them narrow down what is the exact cause of your knee clicking.
Here are some possible causes of knee clicking sounds while moving.
Unnecessary tissue or plica: In some individuals, unnecessary tissue develops around the knee and can get trapped in parts of the knee, causing the clicking sound you hear.
Runner’s knee: When the knee cap becomes out of line and does not track properly with the femur, this is known as runner’s knee. This condition is often caused by an injury or added stress to the tibia. When bones get out of alignment, it results in a clicking sound when the knee is bent. Runner’s knee may also occur if the muscles in the quadriceps are overworked.
Damage of the meniscus and shock absorber: The meniscus is the shock absorber in the knee which works as a lubricator between the bones, causing clicking when damaged. The meniscus involves two C-shaped discs, and if one becomes torn it can throw the knee off balance. Along with clicking of the knee, damage to the meniscus can cause bruising and chronic pain.
Arthritis: When arthritis affects the knees, it can result in clicking sounds as a result of inflammation, which misaligns the knee. Stiffness may also accompany knee clicking in arthritis, too.
An ACL tear or MCL tear: An ACL or MCL injury can cause chronic pain, stiffness, and knee clicking. Bruising may appear as well.
Prior to beginning any exercises for knee clicking, you should always consult with your doctor, as some exercises can make your condition worse, for example, if you have a tear or misalignment. If your doctor has given you the green light to exercise, then a good place to begin is strengthening the quadriceps, as the muscles that run through the thigh can help better support the knee.
Beneficial exercises for quads include leg extensions or static contractions. An example is quad-setting exercise, which is performed by sitting on the floor with both legs straight. Bend your left knee and put your foot flat on the floor and place a rolled towel beneath your right thigh near the knee. Flex your foot, and lift your heel and calf off the floor. Lower back down. Do not lift your thigh off the towel.
It’s also important to have equal strength between your quadriceps and hamstrings, so if your quads are strong but your hamstrings are weak your knees could be feeling the burden. Hamstrings are located at the back of the thigh. To strengthen these muscles, lay face up on the floor with your knees bent at a 45-degree angle. Lift your toes up and press your heels down, contracting the hamstrings in the process. Hold this for up to 10 seconds, relax, and repeat. Generally, the quads should be only 25 percent stronger than the hamstrings.
A strong, flexible IT band can help further support the knees. To exercise the IT band, cross your right leg behind your left leg in a standing position. Bend the knee slightly as you lean towards the left. Shift your hips to the right to increase the stretch, and hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
Other exercises include the inner thigh squat, which is done by placing your feet shoulder-width apart with toes pointing outward. While squatting, bring your hips back as if you are about to sit on a chair that is far behind you. Additionally, while squatting, move your knees outwards and proceed to go as low as you can without surpassing a 90-degree bend in the knees. Push back up through the heels, and complete three sets of 15 repeats up to three times a week.
Now that you know the potential causes and exercises for knee clicking, here are some other tips to help stop the clicking in your knees.
By following these tips you can help prevent knee clicking and other knee injuries related to physical activity.