Skip 
Navigation Link
Aging & Geriatrics
Resources
Basic InformationLatest News
Sitting Could Be Big Health Risk for Frail FolksLower Blood Pressure Best for Seniors' MindsPhysical Activity Predicts Disability in Older Adults'On the Move' Group Exercise Program Aids Walking in ElderlyTaking a Stand on Staying Mobile After 80The Right Shoes Can Help Prevent FallsYoga May Boost Aging BrainsHealth Tip: One of Three Adults Gets ShinglesMidlife Behaviors May Affect Your Dementia Risk'Loneliness Epidemic' Called a Major Public Health ThreatProtein at All 3 Meals May Help Preserve Seniors' StrengthInappropriate Med Use High in Cognitively Impaired SeniorsSwitching to Generic Eye Meds Could Save Medicare MillionsIncreased Dementia Risk With Hearing Loss in Older AdultsExercise Not Making Dent in Most Seniors' Down TimeJust Thinking You're Less Active May Shorten Your LifeHealth Benefits of Healthy Lifestyle Quantified in U.S.In Mice, Brain Cells Discovered That Might Control AgingHealth Tip: Adapting After Hip ReplacementTargeting 9 Risk Factors Could Prevent 1 in 3 Dementia Cases: StudyCan Daily Crossword Protect You From Dementia?A Healthy Diet May Help Ward Off DementiaLifestyle Factors Predict Independent Aging in Older MenNew Criteria Urged for Infection Diagnosis Among Seniors in ERCognitive Function Up With Adherence to Mediterranean DietLiving With Purpose May Help Seniors Sleep SoundlySeniors' Lungs Can Tackle ExerciseExercise Can Keep Obese Seniors on the GoPre-, Post-Op C-Reactive Protein Levels Tied to DeliriumA Cheaper Alternative to Hearing Aids?Poll Finds Seniors Struggling With Drug Costs Don't Seek HelpFor Many, Friends Are Key to Happiness in Old AgeCould a High IQ Mean a Longer Life?Slowed Walking, Shrinking Brain?Is Potential Human Life Span Unlimited?Even at Low Levels, Dirty Air Raises Death Risk for U.S. SeniorsLifestyle Changes Might Prevent or Slow DementiaRevisits After Discharge From Observation Up in ElderlyReport Addresses Patient Refusal of Home Health Care ServicesOlder Age Needn't Be a Barrier to Herniated Disc SurgeryHealth Tip: Managing Arthritis FatigueComprehensive Audiologic Care Feasible in Free Clinic ModelRecreational Activity-Linked Facial Fractures Up in SeniorsSeniors Get Good Results From Herniated Disc SurgeryCentenarians Often Healthier Than Younger Seniors: StudyFido May Be a Fit Senior's Best FriendExcess Alcohol May Speed Muscle Loss in Older WomenFamily Can Improve Timely Detection in Nursing Home CareEven Moderate Drinking May Dull the Aging BrainCan a 70-Year-Old Have the Arteries of a 20-Year-Old?
Questions and AnswersLinksBook ReviewsSelf-Help Groups
Related Topics

Depression: Depression & Related Conditions
Lifespan Development

Do Your Knees Crackle and Pop?

HealthDay News
by By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: May 5th 2017

new article illustration

FRIDAY, May 5, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Knees that "pop," "click" or "crackle" may sometimes be headed toward arthritis in the near future, a new study suggests.

It's common for the knees to get a little noisy on occasion, and hearing a "crack" during your yoga class is probably not something to worry about, experts say.

But in the new study, middle-aged and older adults who said their knees often crackled were more likely to develop arthritis symptoms in the next year.

Of those who complained their knees were "always" noisy, 11 percent developed knee arthritis symptoms within a year. That compared with 4.5 percent of people who said their knees "never" popped or cracked.

Everyone else fell into the middle. Of people who said their knees "sometimes" or "often" made noise, roughly 8 percent developed knee arthritis symptoms in the next year.

Doctors have a term for those joint noises: crepitus.

Patients commonly complain of it, said Dr. Grace Lo, the lead researcher on the study. She's an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

But until now, it hasn't been clear whether crepitus can predict symptomatic knee arthritis. That means people not only have evidence of cartilage breakdown on X-rays, but also suffer symptoms from it -- namely, frequent pain and stiffness.

"Our study suggests crepitus is not completely benign," Lo said. "It's a sign that something is going on in the knee joint."

Dr. Joseph Bosco, an orthopedic surgeon who wasn't involved in the study, agreed that frequent crepitus should be checked out.

"A lot of people's knees 'snap' and 'pop,'" said Bosco, a professor at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. "Do they need to run out for knee replacements? No."

But, he added, "if you experience crepitus regularly, get an evaluation."

The findings, published May 4 in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, come with some caveats.

The nearly 3,500 study participants were at increased risk of developing knee arthritis symptoms to begin with, Lo explained.

The participants ranged in age from 45 to 79. Some were at risk of knee arthritis simply because of old age, while others had risk factors such as obesity or a history of a significant knee injury.

So it's not clear, Lo said, whether the findings would translate to -- for example -- a 35-year-old whose knees crack when she runs.

Plus, even though the study participants were initially free of knee arthritis symptoms, some did have signs of arthritis damage on an X-ray.

And it was in that group where crepitus was a red flag: People who "often" or "always" had noisy knees were nearly three times more likely to develop knee arthritis symptoms as those who "never" had crepitus.

According to Lo, the findings could be useful in everyday medical practice. "If patients are complaining of frequent cracking or popping in the knees," she said, "get an X-ray."

If that turns up signs of arthritic damage, Lo said, then the risk of progressing to symptoms in the near future is probably significant.

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill that can stop arthritis in progress. But, Lo said, for patients who are heavy, weight loss can help.

Some, she added, might benefit from strengthening the muscles that support the knees.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more on managing knee pain.