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Knee Popping but No Pain

Knee Popping but No Pain

Has your knee been clicking and making funny sounds, whenever you move? Find out what could be causing knee popping and whether it is something you should be worried about or not.
Rohini Mohan
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2018
We all have heard our knee joints popping at some point or the other, but have we even stopped for a second and wondered what may be causing it? I believe not, not unless we experience some form of pain along with the pop. This noise is a form of joint crackling or clicking, known as Crepitus, and usually occurs when we bend out knees suddenly. This article highlights the causes of knee popping, but no associated pain and whether it is something to fret about or not.
Common Causes of Knee Popping
It is often believed that the older you get, your tendons, ligaments, and muscles tend to weaken, which may explain this strange phenomenon of knee popping. Nonetheless, why would a normal healthy person be going through the same?
Joint Cavitation
Small air bubbles form in the knee joint and in the synovial fluid that protects the articular cartilage by reducing the friction. When the two parts of the synovial joints get further apart from each other than normally permissible, the space between the two expands. This space cannot be covered by the limited quantity of synovial fluid already present in the joints. This results in the carbon dioxide (CO2) being released from the synovial fluid, which goes on to occupy the empty space and cause air bubbles. It is these bubbles which make the popping sound whenever there is sudden bending or twisting of the knees.
Patella Imbalance
The patella is also known as the kneecap. It's main function is to protect the underlying knee tissues from injury and infection. Sometimes, due to dehydration, too little or excess of physical exercise, can weaken the patellas, and other parts of the knee. The kneecap may get pulled to one side, due to sudden and unexpected leg movement.
For instance, when we lose balance and fall down on our knee, the patella may get displaced slightly. While this displacement usually causes a lot of pain, the shift is very minor and may result in air getting trapped in the free space in the knee. This will thus cause popping sounds when you move your knee.
Strenuous Workouts
Many athletes have complained of their knee joints popping. The reason could be an imbalance in the fluids within the knees, because the space between the surfaces of the bones, cartilages, and ligaments, is constantly being exerted and stretched. Therefore there is more and more vacuum being created and air bubbles being formed. In this case, more blood circulation will be needed so as to strengthen the leg muscles.
If the legs are strong, they will absorb some of the excess pressure while exercising. Since the fluid is less and the gases are more in the knee, slight circular massages, and warm oil therapy, will help lubricate the tissues. This will reduce the friction and the air bubbles. As long as there is no pain, this condition poses no threat and should not be a cause of concern.
Weight Issues
A fact undisputed, is that if you are overweight, your entire body mass is held up by your lower body, which is inclusive of your knees. So if this is the case, maybe the clicking knee sound, is your body complaining aloud that you need to lose some weight. You may try shedding some of the weight through simple and less strenuous exercises. Eating healthy and drastically cutting down on fatty foods, will make the job faster and safer. For those who have been trying to lose weight and have been hearing their knee pop, they must see to it that they keep their body well aligned.
Improper Exercising and Remedy
Here are a few pointers for you to remember and follow, in case you haven't been exercising for a while now, and plan to start soon, or have begun working out a few days ago.
  • You cannot jump start your body to respond to strenuous exercise and yield great results, without any side effects. You have to take things slow and steady, and allow your body to get used to the sudden surge in activity and motion. Allow fluidity to take over your lax muscles and joints.
  • The safest way to avert any form of aches, pain, strain, and muscle / tendon pulls or tears, is to warm-up sufficiently before beginning with any form of exercise.
  • Give your body and mind adequate time to get ready for exercising, and let your body temperature rise slightly so that the muscles become more supple and well circulated with blood.
  • Stretching exercises, when combined with deep breathing exercises, will ensure that you reap maximum benefits from your workout, and for your overall state of being.
  • Do not apply excessive pressure on your knee tendons while exercising, as they will become comparatively weaker and more abused, than the other parts of the body.
  • Try wearing sports shoes which have excellent soles, and support, so that there is a cushion which absorbs some of the pressure while exercising.
Lastly, avoid running on hard grounds such as on concrete floors and tarred roads, as these surfaces do not absorb friction, as efficiently as soft muddy / grassy grounds do. This lack of absorption of friction will adversely impact your knees, as all your leg joints, muscles, and nerves, will absorb the excess force and cause long-term damage. While there is no pain being experienced at this point in time, the chances of inflammation and pain may arise, in the future after a few years of wear and tear.
Reasons for Painful Knee Popping
As I mentioned before, as long as there is no pain, you'll be alright. However, there are many people who have been suffering from slight or acute pain and knee popping when walking or while climbing up the stairs. If you too have felt the same, you need to get your knees checked as soon as possible. The reason being that, there is definitely something not right, and which needs looking after. Following are some of the reasons for this condition:
  • Chondromalacia Patella (Softening and breakdown of the cartilage that covers the interior of the kneecap (patella)
  • Damaged cartilage
  • Inflammation in ligament or tendon
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis (Loss of bone density)
The aforementioned conditions can be rectified through proper treatment. Knee clacking can happen to people of all age groups starting from young adults as old as 15 and above. Among youngsters the reason can be overexerting the knees during games, cycling, and workout. It could also be due to injuries, or a sprain in the knee. Among older people, calcium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis which eventually causes the bones to become rather porous. This results in more air bubbles getting trapped in the joints. Proper diagnosis and prompt treatment can prevent the condition from worsening.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.