If you are experiencing pain and clicking in your knee, you may be wondering what is wrong or why your knee is clicking and painful.

It can be difficult to determine the cause of joint noise, but there are a few potential causes that you should be aware of.

In this blog post, we will discuss some of the most common causes of knee clicking and pain.

Anatomy of the Knee Joint

The knee joint is one of the largest and most complex joints in the human body. It is made up of the knee cap, which rests on top of the thigh bone, and the lower leg bones (tibia and fibula), which come together at the knee.

The knee joint is held together by a network of ligaments and tendons, and it is protected by a layer of soft tissue called the knee capsule. The knee joint also contains a small amount of synovial fluid, which helps to lubricate and protect the cartilage.

It’s responsible for bearing a lot of weight and acts as a shock absorber. It is subject to a lot of stress, especially when we are active. The knee joint has two main stabilizing ligaments, the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and the PCL (posterior cruciate ligament).

The MCL (medial collateral ligament) runs down the inside of the knee and helps to stabilize the joint.

Why is My Knee Clicking and Painful

A cracking or popping sound when moving your knee can be alarming. However, you don’t always have to worry. Noisy knees are a common occurrence. In many cases, the cracking sound is simply the result of gas bubbles forming in the joint fluid.

As the bubbles collapse, they create a popping sensation. However, if the cracking sounds are accompanied by pain or swelling, it could be a sign of something more serious. Knee popping can also be caused by osteoarthritis, which is when the cartilage that cushions the bones breaks down.

If you’re concerned about your knee clicking or popping, make an appointment with your doctor to get it checked out.


Causes of Knee Popping

There are several different causes of knee pain, ranging from arthritis to injury. However, one often overlooked cause of knee pain is mechanical problems that wear down the body.

This refers to any issue that affects the way the joint moves or functions, such as the following medical conditions:

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

One of the most common causes of knee crackling sounds is patellofemoral pain syndrome, or runner’s knee, which is often the result of overuse.

This condition occurs when the patella, or knee cap, rubs against the femur, or thighbone. The rubbing can cause the patella to become irritated and inflamed, leading to knee pain.

Meniscus Tears

In some cases, a torn meniscus can also cause knee popping. The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that cushions the joint, and a tear can cause it to rub against the bones, resulting in pain and popping.

Torn meniscuses sometimes require surgery to repair the damage, depending on the severity and overall health of the patient.

Knee Crepitus

Knee crepitus is another common cause of knee popping. This condition is caused by tiny pieces of bone or cartilage rubbing together or over bony prominences and can also be the result of arthritis.

Knee crepitus caused by arthritis cannot be cured, but over-the-counter medication can help reduce inflammation and pain.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of arthritis that causes inflammation in the joints, and it can lead to knee crepitus. Treatment for knee popping depends on the underlying cause.

Ligament Injury

Another common cause of knee clicking is an injury to the ligaments. These are the tissues that hold the bones together and provide stability to the joint.

The most common ligament injuries are ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears and MCL (medial collateral ligament) sprains or tears.

Both of these injuries can cause the knee to pop, resulting in pain, instability, and swelling. Treatment for ligament injuries usually involves physical therapy and, in some cases, surgery.

Treatment Options You Can Consider

If you’re dealing with a popping noise in your knee, you’re not alone. Many people experience this problem at some point in their lives. While the cause of the popping noise is often harmless, it can sometimes be a sign of a more serious condition.

If you’re concerned about the noise your knee is making, here are a few treatment options to consider.

Physical Therapy

One option is to see a physical therapist. They can help to strengthen the muscles around your knee and stabilize the joint. While it can often help reduce the popping noise, it likely will not be eliminated.

While the noise will likely persist (to some capacity), physical therapy will help you relieve your pain. Physical therapists are experts in the physical anatomy and strengthening necessary to improve your knee’s overall function.

Knee Brace

Another option is to wear a knee brace. This can help keep your knee in alignment and take some of the stress off of the joint. This can again help to reduce the popping noise.

It is pertinent to note that wearing a knee brace is not a long-term solution. Improving your strength and mobility in your joints is paramount to your joint health.


Stretching helps to avoid or minimize this condition by gradually lengthening the muscles and increasing blood flow to the area. Stretching can be done either passively or actively.

For best results, I always recommend active stretching and loading your stretches to ensure you are accumulating both strength and additional length in the associated muscles.

It’s also important to stretch after exercising, as this can help to reduce stiffness and improve range of motion. By including stretching in your routine, you can help to avoid injuries and keep your body healthy.

Anti-inflammatory Medication

Among older people, a common complaint is noisy knees. The sound may be like grinding or crunching, and it can be quite loud. This condition is often the result of joint pain, which can be caused by inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory medication can help reduce the pain and inflammation, and in turn, the noise. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new medication.

In some cases, the noise may be caused by scar tissue, and anti-inflammatory medication will not help. Therefore, it is essential to get a proper diagnosis before beginning treatment.

Surgical Repair

In some cases, surgery may be necessary. This is usually only recommended if other treatments haven’t been successful in alleviating the problem. Joint replacement or repair are two common types of knee surgery that may be performed to treat a popping noise.

If you’re dealing with a popping noise in your knee, talk to your doctor or an orthopedic surgeon about treatment options. They can help you find the best way to deal with the problem and get you back on your feet.


Consult Your Doctor Always

Young adults are often reluctant to consult their doctor, assuming that they are invincible. However, this is not always the case. Even if you are generally healthy, it is important to consult your doctor regularly.

This is especially true if you experience any unusual symptoms, such as a knee-popping sound. By consulting your doctor, you can ensure that any potential health problems are caught early and treated effectively.

Additionally, regular check-ups provide an opportunity to discuss any concerns you may have about your health. So don’t be afraid to visit your doctor; it could be the best decision you have ever made.

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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