Are you experiencing some crunching sounds in your knee joints? Is bending and extending the knees causing discomfort? It could be creaky knees. While some sounds heard on cracking of knuckles are normal, grating or creaking sounds from the knees when you try to bend or straighten can be annoying and even painful at times. Here is all you need to know about creaky knees and the exercises that can help you keep this discomfort at bay.
What Are Creaky Knees?
Knee joints perform a wide range of function by allowing extension and flexion of the knees. Apart from the sports activities, some movements like walking, running, jumping, climbing, squatting and sitting on floor are commonly performed in routine life. Creaky knees are often noticed as those creaking sounds in the knees on making these movements.1 The sounds may actually be heard as crunching or grating noises in the knees.
These creaking sounds are termed as crepitus, which can be heard and also felt by placing hands on the knee joint while bending or straightening the knees. The knee joint has a cartilage which normally acts as a cushion between the bones. If the cartilage gets damaged or worn out, there occurs rubbing of bones against each other, which leads to the grating or creaking sounds. Sometimes, if the bones of knee joint are not aligned properly, the resulting friction of bones may be heard in creaky knees.
While the cartilage can get affected due to various reasons, the creaky knees may also present with other symptoms. In addition to the creaky sounds, there may be pain in the joint, around the knees or particularly in the front. This may be associated with puffiness or swelling around the knees.
What Causes Creaky Knees Or What Can Cause Your Knees To Creak?
Creaky knees may be prominent after an injury to the knee joint or can gradually develop with aging, as these are main contributors that can damage the joint cartilage.
- Creaky Knees Caused Due To Injuries – Any trauma to the ligaments, meniscus or soft tissues that can damage the cartilage is invariably hurting the cushion between the bones. A torn cartilage makes it difficult to bear weight on a moving knee, which explains the creaking sounds in knees.
- Creaky Knees Caused Due To Aging– As a natural aging process, due to wear and tear the cartilage may get worn out gradually, making knee joint movements difficult and painful. Joint conditions like osteoarthritis may commonly present with creaky knees.
- Runner’s Knee– A condition in which the kneecap is misaligned, causing the thighbone rubbing over the kneecap can lead to creaky knees. In this, the pain is particularly felt in the front of the knees and the creaking sound in the knee is worse on running or climbing upwards. It is also seen in anterior knee pain or patellofemoral pain.
- Chondromalacia Patellae Can Cause Creaky Knee– Softening of the kneecap cartilage causing the bones to grind against each other can result in creaking. This can occur due to repeated strain, trauma, osteoarthritis or other joint problems.
Secondary Problems That Can Cause your Knees To Creak– Sometimes, creaky knees may be noticed in persons who have experienced knee injuries or a torn cartilage before. In some cases, it is a result of weak muscles of the hips, thighs and legs causing more strain on knees or improper gait.
Sometimes creaky knees may be just a normal finding that may not have anything specific in the background; but it would still be worth protecting the knees with appropriate measures.
What Is The Treatment For Creaky Knees?
As primary measure, giving rest to the knee joint and avoiding activities that worsen the pain or other symptoms is important. For knee pain and swelling, anti-inflammatory medicines may be given. As a long term treatment for creaky knees, knee strengthening exercises and lifestyle modification measures should be undertaken.
- Maintain ideal weight, practice low impact cardio and knee strengthening exercises to avoid creaking in the knee.
- Consume nutritious diet providing essential fatty acids, vital nutrients and proteins, avoid smoking, and drink plenty of water.
- Consider nutritional supplements that help improve bone, joint and muscles function.
Exercises For Creaky Knees
Knees creak when there is damage to their cushioning cartilage. Whether it is trauma, weakened muscles or degenerative changes, knee strengthening exercises can keep you strong and helps avoid problems like creaking of the knee joint. The thigh muscles, namely quadriceps (front of thighs) and hamstrings (back of thighs) need to be well-built and supple to support the knee movements and limit creaking.
Working On The Quadriceps – Leg Extension Exercises For Creaky Knees
Quadriceps muscles help to raise the legs and straighten the knees. Perform exercises that work on this function.
- Seating Leg Raise Exercise For Creaky Knees: Sit in a chair and raise your knee till you can comfortably extend it and slowly bring it down. Work out on both legs. Ankle weights can be used for increased resistance under expert’s supervision.
- Lie on the floor and raise leg with straightened knee in the similar manner. Ankle weights can be used.
- Leg extension machine in a gym can also be used.
Working On The Hamstrings– Leg Curls Exercises For Creaky Knees
Hamstrings help to bend the knees and move legs backwards. Perform exercises that work on this function.
- Prone Knee Bend Exercise For Creaky Knees: Lie on your stomach with legs straight. Slowly bend your knees backwards, so that the ankles are raised towards your body and try to touch the heels to your buttocks. Repeat on both sides. Gradually use ankle weights.
- Standing Knee Bend Exercise For Creaky Knees: Stand straight and slowly bend your knee, such that the heels touch the back of your thighs; support your ankles with one hand.
- Leg curl machine in a gym can be used for the same.
Other Exercises For Creaky Knees
Half Squats Exercise For Creaky Knees: Stand with back supported against a wall; slowly bend the knees as if sitting on a chair, till the thighs are parallel to the floor; hold the position and then slowly release.
Perform aerobic exercises that have less impact on knees. Cycling, stationary bikes and aquatic exercises can be a great option. If not swimming, water aerobics or simply moving in a pool can help you overcome the problems of creaky knees.