Knee popping and associated pain is an extremely common problem experienced by many and there are many possible causes for it. The only distinguishable way between various factors is the presence of pain that comes along with it. Painless popping is often insignificant whereas painful popping is an indication of something serious underlying. Let’s attempt to solve some mysteries of knee popping.
Usually, knee popping is because the knee cap is loose. This can result from injury or ageing related wear and tear issues. Weak quadriceps muscles can also contribute to this knee popping phenomenon as it is inadequate to support the expansion and contraction motion of the knee.
Painless popping is usually due to the presence of bubbles in the joints. Bubbles are formed when there is a difference in pressure at the joint, allowing for the spontaneous formation of tiny air bubbles. When movements are attempted, the bubbles will be burst and thus emitting a popping sound. This is going to be a closed cycle since bubbles will continue to form due to the pressure difference. The scientific term for it is called cavitation and this is harmless.
We have soft tissues located throughout our joints and movements will cause these tendons and ligaments to stretch slightly. Since they are elastic, they will return back to their original shape after the load is released and this will produce a popping sound, similar to the analogy of a rubber band stretching. This does not cause any soft tissue damage and is harmless.
Mechanical popping is due to the presence of an existing injury, commonly a loose cartilage. As the loose cartilage is free to move about in the joint, it will cause a flapping movement when the leg is moving, causing a popping sound. Since it is due to injury, medical attention will need to be sought to repair the loose cartilage.
Arthritis is effectively wear and tear and it causes the cartilage to get thinner and thinner. As the cartilage gets thinner and friction occurs during movement, both surfaces will rub against each other, resulting in a popping sound. It can also be quite painful for some patients to bear.
Since there are different contributions to knee popping, it is difficult to pin point exactly to the exact cause of it. Painless knee popping will not affect your daily lifestyle but painful ones will and can lead to degradation in the quality of lifestyle you can enjoy.