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Have you ever heard a crunching or a creaking kind of a sound when you bend your knee? If the answer to this is yes, then you surely might want to know how and why it happens.
Also, an important point that we all wish to know is if at all this creaking of the knee while bending is a matter of serious concern. Read on to know more about this ailment and how to deal with it.
The Structure Of The Knee
The knee is the point where the femur joins with the tibia. A bone in the lower leg, the fibula is also connected at this point of the joint - at the knee. The kneecap, also known as the patella, is a convex, small bone that shields the joint and is positioned at the front of the knees.
Menisci is a cushion kind formed by two, thick pads of cartilage and gives a cushiony effect to the femur and the tibia. This cushion also helps in reducing friction at the meeting point. The joint is lubricated by a fluid-filled capsule known as synovium.
How Does Crepitus Occur?
The areas that surround the knee joint can have a certain amount of gas build up over time. This gas build-up creates tiny bubbles in the fluid present in the synovium. So, when you bend your knees, these bubbles burst producing a creaking sound that happens when the ligaments snap. This is quite normal to occur and might happen to people at some point of time or the other.
However, the ailment that can increase the occurrence of crepitus drastically is arthritis. This ailment damages the bone and cartilage. When the damaged knee is moved around, such as when you bend it, the knee joint moves making a crackling and crunching sound.
Crepitus at times can also be a result of some form of leg or knee injury.
Should You Be Worried About Crepitus?
The occurrence of crepitus is not uncommon. Moreover, this is painless. In most of the cases, there is no need to worry about this occurrence, especially if it is found to be painless. However, if the crackling and popping sounds are accompanied by pain, then that could be an indication of an underlying problem.
One of the common symptoms of osteoarthritis is knee crepitus. This can also be a sign of infectious arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Sometimes, it is the result of various kinds of knee injuries.
If your knee crackles too often and hurts, then it is time to see a doctor.
Arthritis And Crepitus
Osteoarthritis mainly affects people who are over the age of 65 years. This form of arthritis is also referred to as the ‘wear and tear' arthritis. This ailment typically affects the joints that are used more often in our daily lives. Weight-bearing joints such as knees and hips are the prime targets of osteoarthritis.
Biochemical changes along with mechanical stress is likely to gradually break the cartilage that gives a cushion-like effect to the joints. This causes inflammation and severe pain. With time, the cartilage gets destroyed and the bones begin to grind together. In such situations of osteoarthritis, crepitus is accompanied by pain.
General Medical Causes Of Crepitus
Apart from osteoarthritis, below are some of the other causes of crepitus.
• Meniscus tear: This kind of knee injury can cause crepitus. This injury is common in people involved in sports. When the joint moves, crepitus is found to occur.
• Chondromalacia patella: This is a kind of dull ache that occurs behind the kneecap. This is usually caused due to injury or overuse. In this kind of an ailment, the undersurface cartilage that covers the kneecap is damaged.
• Patellofemoral syndrome: This is also called runner's knee. This ailment is caused when there is a force overload on the patella. This usually happens prior to any actual damage to the patella's joint surface. This ailment can worsen and lead to chondromalacia patella.
How To Treat Crepitus?
If it's painless, crepitus requires no treatment as it is not caused by any disease. However, if pain accompanies the knee crackling and creaking, then the underlying cause needs to be taken care of by a doctor.
If it is due to osteoarthritis, then your doctor might prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Applying ice packs can help in reducing the inflammation. A brace is recommended to help your knee rest. To promote mobility and to strengthen the knee muscles, physical therapy is recommended.