Do you experience clicking in your knee? You’re not alone. Many factors can cause this problem.

In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss what causes clicking in the knee and how to treat it. We will also provide tips for preventing this problem from occurring in the first place.

The Knee Joint

The knee is a hinge joint that allows the leg to bend and straighten. It is made up of three bones: the femur (thigh bone), tibia (shinbone), and patella (knee cap). The ends of these bones are covered with articular cartilage, which allows the joint to move smoothly between each end of the patellofemoral joint.

Ligaments and tendons are what hold the knee joint together. The ligaments connect the bones, while the tendons attach the muscles to the bones.

There are four main ligaments in the knee:

– The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is located on the inner side of the knee.

– The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is located on the outer side of the knee.

– The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is located in the center of the knee.

– The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is located behind the ACL.

The function of these ligaments is to stabilize the soft tissue around the knee joint and prevent the bones from moving too much.

Synovial fluid is what lubricates the knee joint and allows it to move smoothly. This fluid is produced by the synovium, which is a thin membrane that covers the joint.

The knee joint is surrounded by a layer of connective tissue called the joint capsule. This capsule helps to hold the knee in place and provides stability.

There are also two small pads of cartilage, called menisci, that act as cushions between the femur and tibia.

What is Knee Crepitus?

Knee crepitus is the medical term for knee clicks which are a common condition that can result in clicking, popping, or snapping sounds in the knee. This is caused by the buildup of fluid in the joint, which leads to the formation of tiny air bubbles. These tiny bubbles then burst and create the characteristic loud pop or popping noise.

Crepitus is often worse when the knee is first moved after a period of rest, such as when you stand up after sitting for a long time.

Knee crepitus is not usually painful, but it can be uncomfortable. If you are experiencing pain along with the clicking, popping, or snapping sounds, then you should see a doctor to rule out other causes.


What Causes Clicking in the Knee?

Many different factors can contribute to knee clicking. Some of the most common causes include:

arthritis: arthritis is a common cause of knee clicking. This is because the cartilage that covers the bones starts to wear away, which can cause the bones to rub against each other.

meniscus tears: the meniscus is a small pad of cartilage that acts as a cushion between the femur and tibia. A torn meniscus can cause the bones to rub against each other, which can cause a clicking sound.

ligament tears: if a ligament is torn, it can no longer provide stability to the knee joint. This can cause the bones to move out of place and rub against each other, which can cause noisy knees.

patellar subluxation (dislocation): the patella is a small bone that sits in front of the knee joint. If this bone moves out of place, it can rub against the bones and cause a cracking sound.

patellofemoral pain syndrome: also called runner’s knee, this is a condition that causes pain around the kneecap. It is often caused by overuse or injury.

bursitis: bursitis is the inflammation of a small sack of fluid that sits between the bones and tendons around a joint. This can cause the joints to rub and click.

tendonitis: tendonitis is the inflammation of a tendon. The tendons are what attach the muscles to the bones. If they are inflamed, they can rub against the bones and cause clicking.

scar tissue: scar tissue can form after an injury or surgery. This tissue can cause painful popping by catching on the bones or other tissues.

Baker’s cyst: a Baker’s cyst is a buildup of fluid behind the knee joint. This can cause the knee to click when the fluid is moved.

gout: gout is a form of arthritis that causes knee pain, swelling, and redness around the joints. It can also cause the knee to click because the swelling can put pressure on the bones.

How is Knee Clicking Diagnosed?

Your doctor will start by asking about your symptoms and any history of injury for the joint. They will then do a physical examination of your knee. This will help them to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms.

Your doctor may also order imaging tests, such as an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan. These tests can help to show what is causing the clicking sound in your knee.

How is Knee Clicking Treated?

The treatment for knee clicking will depend on the underlying cause. Some of the most common treatments include:

rest: if your knee is clicking because of overuse, you may need to take a break from activities that worsen your symptoms.

ice: applying ice to the affected area can help to reduce inflammation and pain.

heat: applying heat to the affected area can help to relax the muscles and reduce pain.

physical therapy: a physical therapist can help you strengthen the muscles around your knee and improve your range of motion. They specialize in getting you back to your normal physical activity.

injections: if physical therapy and rest don’t help, your doctor may recommend injections to reduce inflammation.

anti-inflammatory medications: these medications can help to reduce pain and inflammation.

exercises: there are new exercise programs that advise certain exercises that can help to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the knee.

weight loss: losing weight can take the pressure off of your knee joints and help to reduce pain.

bracing: wearing a brace can help to stabilize the knee joint and could reduce pain.

surgery: in some cases, knee surgery may be necessary to repair a torn ligament or meniscus.

Knee clicking is a common problem that can be caused by many different things. It is important to see your doctor for medical attention if you are experiencing knee clicking, as it could be a sign of a more serious problem. With the proper diagnosis and treatment, most people can find relief from their symptoms.


Orthopedic Surgery For Knee Clicking

If you have been diagnosed with a condition that is causing your knee to click, you may be wondering if surgery is an option. While surgery is sometimes necessary to treat knee clicking, it is usually only recommended if more conservative treatments have failed.

Some of the most common orthopedic surgeries for knee clicking include:

arthroscopy: During this procedure, your surgeon will insert a small camera into your knee joint. This will allow them to see what is causing the clicking and make any necessary repairs.

osteotomy: an osteotomy is a procedure that involves cutting and reshaping the bones around the knee joint optimizing the prognosis of your joint surface. This can be done to relieve pressure on the joint and relieve pain.

meniscectomy: during a meniscectomy, your surgeon will remove the damaged portion of your meniscus. This can help to reduce pain and improve knee function.

ligament reconstruction: if you have a torn ligament, your surgeon may recommend reconstructing the ligament. This involves using tissue from another part of your body to repair the damaged ligament.

Surgery is usually only recommended if more conservative treatments, such as physical therapy and weight loss, have failed. If you are considering surgery, be sure to discuss all of your options with your doctor.


In conclusion, what causes clicking in the knee depends on the individual case but there are many possible treatments available depending on what is causing the problem for you. Clicking in the knee can be a nuisance but with treatment, it doesn’t have to be something that interferes with your quality of life. Thank you for reading!

About the Author

Hi there! I’m Dr. Keagen Hadley, OTD, OTR/L. Straight out of the University of Mary, I’m all about blending my know-how in knee health, well-being, and medical technology. As a licensed occupational therapy doc, I’m here to translate complex concepts into clear, actionable insights – whether it’s knee care or groundbreaking healthcare tech.

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