Coping with Knee Pain and Popping

Knee pain and popping

Knee pain and popping is not necessarily a cause for concern, neither does it always  mean that you have a serious situation to deal with. Feeling or hearing your knee pop or make noise when you are walking or running can be nothing if not worrisome. Actually, this condition is quite common and may be caused by a variety of problems. 

There are basically three main types of knee popping or pain:

  •  Popping without pain or discomfort
  •   Popping or pain with an injury
  •  Frequent popping or pain without an injury

Generally, when an individual experiences a popping sensation or sound in the knee without any pain it is caused by air bubbles in or outside of the joint. The technical term for this is cavitation. This happens due to changes in pressures within the joint fluids. This type of popping sound is harmless and is no cause for concern.

Another reason for knee popping without pain is caused by the stretching of ligaments or tendons surrounding the knee. Often, a ligament or tendon will not slide smoothly over the joint, and may ‘catch’ on the small bony lump of the side of the kneecap, causing a popping sound as it moves back into place.

Knee pain and popping with an injury is usually the cause of a ligament tear. Most often, this involved the ACL, or Anterior Cruciate Ligament. This ligament can be torn by an impact to the side of the knee, bending the knee backwards or sudden twisting.

The other type of injury involves the MCL, or Medical Collateral Ligament that is located on the inside of the knee. Almost 50% of ligament tears are of this type. Damage to this ligament involves immediate swelling and pain.

Frequent pain and popping in the knee are caused by arthritis, running, or irritation of the cartilage behind the knee or a cartilage tear.

Treatment for knee pain and popping depends on the type and severity of injury. Be sure to report unresolved knee pain to your doctor or other medical health professional if symptoms are not relieved within a few days and no obvious injury has occurred.

Often, your physician will request an x-ray or MRI of the knee to determine the cause for discomfort and noise. Sometimes he may order ultra sound to see all of the structures in and around the knee joint. All of these tests are non-invasive and do not cause added discomfort.

Depending on what the test results reveal, your doctor may be able to treat your symptoms with simple over the counter medications to decrease swelling or to treat other underlying causes of your knee pain.

Frequently, physical therapy may be needed to strengthen and train the muscles around your knee to make it more stable. Many times, exercises for the thigh muscles are started to strengthen your balance and maintain proper alignment of the knee joint.

As with any other sudden medical condition, knee pain and popping should be reported to a licensed medical professional if it continues for more than 72 hours or causes unrelieved pain. Usually this is a simple matter, but occasionally, more complicated treatment is necessary.

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