Clicking knees are often caused by injuries or stress to the knee or leg. Whether or not this condition requires medical attention or treatment will depend on the condition of the damage caused.
Over time or after an injury you may notice that your knee begins to click when you move. Sometimes this condition is accompanied by pain, but more often than not there are no other symptoms besides the noise. This is usually caused by some portion of the knee not sitting in the proper position, so different parts of the leg are being used and stressed than normal. There are many conditions that can cause the knee to start clicking, most of which are harmless and easily treatable.
Why do We Have Clicking Knees?
Unnecessary tissue or plica. There are a few conditions that can cause the knee to begin to click. Some people develop additional unnecessary tissue or plica around the knee. This tissue can then become trapped between parts of the joint, which will cause a clicking noise when you move.
Runner's knee. You may also be suffering from "runner's knee" a condition that is caused when the knee cap is out of line and not tracking properly along the femur. This is often caused by an injury or stress on the tibia, or the lower bone in your leg which protects our kneecap. If any of these bones come out of line, the knee may click when it is bent. You may also suffer runner's knee if the IT band which stabilizes the kneecap or your quad muscles are overworked.
Damage of the meniscus and shock absorber. The meniscus, or the shock absorber in your knee that serves as a lubricator between the bones can also become damaged and begin to cause the knee to make a clicking noise. The meniscus consists of two flat C-shaped disks that help hold the kneecap into place. When one of these disk tears it can throw off the balance of the knee, causing it to turn when it is bent. This can lead to a clicking noise as the knee comes into contact with different portions of the leg than usual as it moves. Other symptoms of this condition include bruising or black and blue marks on the knee. The joint may be tender or you might experience chronic pain in this area.
Arthritis. When arthritis begins to impact the legs you may begin to experience clicking in the knee. This is caused by the inflammation in the area causing the knee to align differently than usual. If arthritis is causing your clicking you may also notice stiffness in the joint or inflammation in the area or in other joints. You may also notice joint erythema or bursitis.
An ACL tear and MCL tear. An ACL tear can cause the knee to click as the leg begins to sit in a different location than it normally would. An MCL tear can cause a similar situation. Both injuries cause chronic pain and will cause the knee to be stiff and tender. You may notice bruising or black and blue marks caused by the injury that caused the tear as well.
Whether to Worry about Clicking Knees?
If the clicking is causing you pain or making it difficult to move then it is important to seek medical attention to determine whether or not you suffering an injury that could be causing damage to your body. Your doctor will examine your knee to determine what is causing the clicking noise to help narrow down what kind of treatment is appropriate.
When the clicking knee is not accompanied by other side effects such as pain or swelling then it may not be cause for concern. Many times the knee will click when it is expelling excess air that has become trapped in the joint. It may also be a sign that the knee is righting itself when it is experiencing excess pressure or friction in the area. This is similar to the sensation or noise that you experience when you "crack" your knuckles or other joints.
How to Treat Clicking Knees
Home remedies. Clicking knees can often be treated at home. If excessive exercise is causing the clicking, providing additional support during your exercise routine can help alleviate your discomfort. Wearing a supportive band around the knee can help alleviate this condition. Just be sure to pick a proper sized band for your body size so that it does not cut off the circulation to the rest of the leg.
Doing exercises. Sometimes exercise to strengthen the knee can help alleviate the clicking you are experiencing. Working the quadriceps is a common choice for this. Common exercise for this is a quad setting. Sit on the floor with both legs straight in front of you. Slowly bend the knee and but the foot on the floor with a rolled up towel sitting underneath the opposing thigh. Flex the foot on your bend leg and lift the calf off the floor, hold for ten seconds and then slowly lower it back down, taking care not to lift the opposing leg off of the towel. Repeat several sets of these with each leg as necessary.
You can also exercise the hamstrings to help provide the knee with more support while you perform other activities. To exercise this area, lie face up on the floor with the knees bent at a 45 degree angle. Lift the toes off the floor and press your heels downward, causing the hamstrings to contract. Hold this stretch for ten seconds, and then return to your neutral starting position. Repeat this motion in sets of ten, slowly increasing the number of reps per set as your hamstrings get stronger.