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Knee Clicking When Walking: What Could Be Causing It?


Is your knee clicking when walking? Perhaps causing you pain, instability, and worry, no doubt. What on earth could be causing it?

The knee joint can develop various issues throughout its lifetime. A clicking sound is relatively familiar, usually occurring alongside an underlying cause. 

It’s not always a concern if you hear a popping sound in your knee, so please don’t be alarmed.

Do, however, note down when the knee clicks when walking and what brings it on.

Is it happening all the time or only part of the time?

Do you have pain with it or no pain?

Noisy knees that are ongoing or frequent should be reason enough for medical attention. If you haven’t already done so, arrange an assessment with your medical doctor.

In this post, I’ll explain common reasons for your knee clicking when walking and what you can do about it.

Knee clicking when walking

Knee pops

Tiny air bubbles accumulate in the natural fluid of the knee – this is called synovial fluid, and its job is to lubricate the space between the bones of the knee joint.

Most liquid develops tiny bubbles over time depending on their viscosity. It’s common in the knee due to the range and extent of knee activity and is nothing to be concerned about.

But these gas bubbles need to escape somehow, and they do!

It’s usually heard as a cracking sound or the knee popping (you may feel this if you bend your knees completely, say when leaning down to pick something up.)

Knee crepitus

This is another normal cause for clicking knees. Again, it’s to do with how the bones move and interact with each other. Sometimes bones click!

All joints do, in fact – your wrist, elbow, and ankles might click too.

It’s only something to look into further if knee pain is involved with the clicking, as this could signal arthritis or other knee issues.


Soft tissue

Ligament problems, a torn meniscus, or ligament injury can all contribute to a popping sensation in the knee joint.

These are usually caused by injury from a sudden movement or when the knee is used as a ‘shock absorber’ during athletic activity.

With any ligament injury, there would be intense pain felt with it.

The major ligaments of the knee are:

These four ligaments help to stabilize the knee and are crucial for mobility. However, all are prone to serious injury if the knees are abused or overused.

Cartilage, too, can cause knee clicking.

For example, the meniscus is a c-shaped piece of cartilage and can be damaged when a person changes direction abruptly, such as in sports or car accidents.

Any sudden changes in the knee can signal a potential ligament injury, invariably accompanied by severe pain through physical activity.

Be sure to get your knee medically checked if you have pain or have experienced a knee injury of any sort.

Knee arthritis

A common problem in aging knees or those that have been overused in sports activities is arthritis.

The correct medical term for this is osteoarthritis. Individuals would experience pain, possible cracking sounds, and even grinding sensations, depending on the severity of arthritis.

Arthritis occurs when the joint surfaces rub together, and the cartilage gradually disappears.

It’s a longer-term, progressive condition that can be maintained somewhat through appropriate rest and physical therapy if caught early.

Runner’s knee

Also called patellofemoral pain syndrome, a ‘runner’s knee’ is a condition represented by pain at the front of the knee, including the knee cap.

It occurs, like the name, in runners who overbend the knee. It’s also common in sportsmen and women who are on their legs often.

Further damage may occur if rest and appropriate physical therapy is not implemented in those diagnosed with this condition.

Healthy knees

Healthy knees free of pain or problem is always the aim. So, if you hear your knee clicking when walking, the first thing to do is to monitor it. Note when it happens and what sensation you feel.

Next, book an appointment with an appropriate medical doctor to refer you for a thorough examination.

An accurate diagnosis is undoubtedly needed to give answers to why the knee clicks and what treatment is available.

Usually, the treatment plan for clicking knees (mainly if knee injuries are the cause) involves rest and anti-inflammatory medications to dampen the pain – helping with daily activities.

If a more serious problem is discovered, there are surgical options, but these are always last resort. A joint replacement is no joke; all other options should be explored first.


Physical therapist

Always remember the benefits of a good physical therapist to aid in healing clicking knees – regardless of the cause.

Physical therapists can advise on appropriate exercises for you to do, as well as suggest a knee brace, which can aid in knee stabilization.

I hope you find this post informative and that it’s given you some pointers regarding what might cause knee clicking when walking.

I always say if you’re ever unsure, see your doctor anyway and get a medical opinion. It’s worth its weight in gold.

If you’d like to check out my bestselling book ‘Torn – overcoming the psychological challenges post ACL injury’, click here to be taken straight there.

And to read another one of my posts, check this one out.