Have you ever experienced clicking knees when walking or while climbing a flight of stairs? Clicking of knee tends to happen when the knee joint is being extended and at certain times it can be associated with severe pain. The knee begins to click as quite often a part of the knee is not in a proper position. Clicking of knee can cause fear and confusion but thankfully, there is no real cause to worry unless it is accompanied by swelling and pain. Knee clicking is very common and can occur in anyone, regardless of age.
What Are the Causes of Knee Clicking When Walking?
1. Cartilage rubbing: A knee joint is composed of a number of parts that are required for its optimum functioning, one of this is cartilage. Cartilage is a tissue that covers and protects the bones; however, over time this tissue can become uneven. During the bending of knee, there is rubbing of cartilage and if the cartilage is uneven there may be a clicking or cracking or popping sound. This happens more commonly as you age but is no cause to worry.
2. Ligament tightening: Ligaments are tissues that connect your bones and they shorten and lengthen as you move. In some cases, there is tightening of ligaments but not enough to result in injury; this also can cause the clicking and popping sound.
3. Lack of synovial fluid: Since the joints are made up of all the moving parts, there is lot of rubbing of these parts over each other. And though the raw friction of bone on bone can be extremely painful, this does not happen in cases where the joint is healthy. Synovial fluid aids in the smooth glide between the ligaments and cartilage. The function of synovial fluid is to protect the bones from rubbing together. It consists of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. While bending or stretching, these gases may escape the knee joint resulting in a clicking or popping sound. Again, this is no cause to worry about.
4. Runner’s knee: Though running is beneficial for your health, still by constant running you can develop runner’s knee due to a lot of stress on tibia. This happens when the kneecap does not track appropriately along the femur and becomes out of line. The kneecap is protected by the lower bones in the leg and the tibia; however, when these bones are misaligned, there will be knee clicking when walking.
5. Presence of unnecessary tissue around the knee joint: When a serious injury to the knee joint is not treated properly or it does not heal properly, unnecessary tissue, also referred to as plica is formed around the knee joint. This tissue gets tangled between some parts of the joint and can result in clicking noise on extension of the joint.
When clicking of the knee joint is associated with pain and swelling, then the causes could be:
1. Meniscus tears: Your knees are put through a lot every day and it adds up over the course of your entire life. Just think about all the steps you have walked, all the stairs you have climbed and all the seats you have gotten up from. Meniscus is a rubbery disc between the bones of the knee joint that acts as a cushion and absorbs the load that you put daily on this weight bearing joint. But the meniscus can tear when you move quickly, or by sudden twisting, or by doing other things while playing sports, resulting in pain when the bones touch each other. It can also cause the knee to turn leading to a clicking sound.
2. Injury to the cartilage or wear and tear (ACL tear and MCL tear): In some cases injury can result in breaking off a piece of cartilage, leading to swelling at the knee joint. This will also result in knee clicking when walking, chronic pain, stiffness of the knee and tenderness at the knee joint.
3. Osteoarthritis: Breakdown of cartilage is also a sign of osteoarthritis of knee, which can result in inflammation of the knee and painful knee. The knee can align differently, which will result in a clicking sound while walking.
What You Can Do About This Condition
There are various treatments available for osteoarthritis. You may be prescribed nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) by your physician and may be asked to apply ice packs to decrease inflammation. You may use a brace to rest and support the knee. You can also do physical therapy exercises which will help strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee joint and enhance the range of motion. Some cases may require surgery or joint replacement.
Nonsurgical treatment of a meniscal tear is done using ice, rest, compression, elevation and physical therapy. Wearing a knee brace may be required temporarily. A meniscal tear may require surgical repair to sew the tear or partial meniscectomy, in which the torn meniscus is removed.
Treatment of cartilage tear includes using rest, ice, elevation, taking painkillers and physical therapy. Surgery may be required if the symptoms do not improve after a few days by non surgical treatment.
Complimentary or Alternative Treatments for Knee Clicking
For the knee clicking when walking there are some natural remedies that you can explore. However, please keep in mind that these remedies have not been proven to be clinically effective, but there is some epidemiological and anecdotal evidence present that shows they have some effect. These remedies are Omega-3 fatty acids (i.e. fish oil), glucosamine and chondroitin, ice packs and heat packs.