We’ve all had those days when we roll out of bed and our knees pop or crack. It’s usually the day after an intense leg workout, though it can set in at any time. But do you know why your knees pop? Is it a serious problem, or nothing to be worried about? Read on to find out everything you didn’t know about popping knees…
The Truth about Joint Noise
“Joint noise” refers to the sounds your joints make. For example, your joints make a sound when you crack your knuckles. Your joints can often “groan” or “grate”, particularly as you get older.
The noise is usually caused by something called cavitation. When the pressure in your joints change (which happens when you move around), carbon dioxide forms bubbles in your joint fluid. This causes a small cavity to form near the joint. When you move and the cavity is closed, the popping of the bubble makes an audible sound. This is the “pop” you hear when you crack your knuckles when your knees crack as you squat.
For the most part, crepitus (another name for joint noise) is no big deal. It’s simply the result of the shifting of your joints, and it’s nothing to worry about. People who think that cracking your knuckles can cause arthritis have no reason for concern. As long as there is no pain in the joints, the joint noise is simply carbon dioxide bubbles bursting.
But, if you notice pain along with the joint noise, there may be cause for concern. If, when you squat, you hear the “pop” and notice a pain in the front of your knee (right where it connects to the lower thigh), it may be a sign that the kneecap is rubbing against your thigh bone. This wears away at the cartilage, causing it to hang loose and irritating the connective tissue in your knee joints. If this happens, you’ll usually feel a sharp pain when you squat.
Thankfully, most people feel no pain when they move around, and the joint noise is no real problem. However, if you want to PREVENT it from becoming a problem later in life, here are a few things you can do:
Increase your ankle mobility — If your ankles lack mobility, your body compensates by adjusting the angle of your knee. This can wear away at the cartilage, leading to skeletomuscular systems. Try the wall-touch test: stand with your toes against the wall, and bend your knees until they touch the wall. If your heels lift off the ground, your ankles are lacking flexibility. Repeat this stretch daily until you can touch the wall with your knees without lifting your heels.
Increase hip mobility — Just like your body compensates for a lack of ankle mobility, so too it has to compensate for inflexible hips. Improper posture and stride can wear away at your knees, all because your hips aren’t flexible or moving properly. Spend time every day stretching out your hips, working on the mobility and flexibility.
Strengthen your core — Did you know that your core muscles are responsible for moving your lower body? Your abs, back, sides, and glutes all work together to move your legs, and a lack of core strength can place undue strain on your hips, knees, and ankles. It’s important to strengthen your core to enhance mobility and flexibility of your lower body. Spend time working all parts of your core: front, back, and sides. By strengthening your core, you reduce the wear on your lower body!