Crunching Knee: What Is It, When It’s Serious, and How to Treat


It can be disconcerting to hear a crunching sound in your knee while walking, jogging, leaping, or squatting. Occasional knee popping may simply be the movement of lubricating fluid in the joint, especially if it is not accompanied by pain or stiffness. However, a persistent crunching sound in your knee may indicate a serious issue that requires medical attention.

You may be hearing a crunching sound in your knee for a variety of reasons. If the crunching is accompanied by no pain, swelling, or other symptoms, you are most certainly suffering from crepitus.

What is crepitus?

Knee crepitus is rarely cause for worry on its own. It is frequently associated with friction of the cartilage in your knees or between other soft tissues, such as scar tissue from a past accident. It could also be caused by tendons or ligaments snapping over bone structures in your knee, or it could be the result of an earlier cartilage injury. As a result, you may hear a crunching or cracking sound when you extend or straighten your knee. 

Many specialists believe that crepitus' cracking sound is caused by the discharge of air bubbles between joints. This release of pressure can be very relieving. However, if the clicking sound in your knee is followed by symptoms such as pain and swelling, it may indicate serious underlying concerns. 

It might also be harmful to suffer knee crunching and popping sounds for many years. Crunching on your knee for an extended amount of time may cause the cartilage to roughen. As a result, your chances of developing osteoarthritis may increase. 

When is a crunching sound in the knee serious?

While knee crunching may not indicate a significant problem, you should seek medical attention if your knee cracks every time you move. If the crunching sound in your knee started after a fall, surgery, or a blow to your joint, you should seek medical attention right away. 

If you are experiencing crunching in your knee and have any of the following symptoms, you should see a doctor for an assessment and treatment:

  • Difficulty walking, running, jumping, or standing.

  • Intense knee pain.

  • Swelling that persists for days.

  • Chronic stiffness.

  • Redness around the joint.

How can you treat the crunching sound in your knee?

While the frequent crunching sound in your knee may be innocuous and not caused by a significant injury or ailment, seeing a physical therapist for therapy can be useful. Physical therapists can help you discover the causes of crunching sounds in your knee and build a treatment plan based on them. To treat your knee injury or condition, physical therapists can:

  • Strengthen your knee joint — Physical therapists can help you strengthen the muscles around your knee, which will enhance your structural support and flexibility. Stronger and more flexible muscles and soft tissue can assist take some stress off the joint, reducing wear and tear on the cartilage.

  • Improve your mobility — Chronic knee noises are frequently accompanied by knee stiffness, particularly in the morning or after extended periods of inactivity. Physical therapists can manually move your knee in multiple directions to gradually improve your range of motion. If the crunching sound in your knee is caused by extra scar tissue, physical therapists can assist relax it using methods such as dry needling.

  • Offer safety tips — Your physical therapist can teach you which exercises to avoid and which to do even after therapy sessions. For instance, your physical therapist may advise avoiding high-impact exercise like running while promoting low-impact exercise like cycling. These easy tweaks to your exercise routine will help you avoid putting unnecessary strain on your knee joint. 

If you experience symptoms of a more significant knee issue, physical treatment can be beneficial. Specialists can identify your ailment and lead you through a specific treatment plan to help reduce discomfort and strengthen your knee joint.

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