Knee-popping sounds typically are not a problem. But in some cases, if you feel pain along with crackling, it may indicate osteoarthritis or another type of arthritis.

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You may hear occasional pops, snaps, and crackles when you bend or straighten your knees or walk up the stairs. Doctors call this crackling sound crepitus (KREP-ih-dus).

One explanation for why this happens is osteoarthritis, but there are many other causes. In most cases, noisy knees aren’t a problem — but if you have pain, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor.

Read on to learn more about the signs and symptoms of crepitus.

If you have knee crepitus, you’ll hear noises when bending your knee. You might notice:

  • cracking
  • popping
  • clicking
  • grating
  • grinding

Having these signs doesn’t mean anything is necssariy wrong with your knee. If you have osteoarthritis, you’ll likely experience additional symptoms like:

  • swelling
  • pain and aching
  • stiffness
  • limited range of motion
  • muscle weakness
  • instability or buckling

Crepitus in the knee is common and usually painless. According to research, the effect on mobility and quality of life is very minimal, and it doesn’t always mean something more serious is going on.

You usually won’t need to contact a doctor or physical therapist if you have knee crepitus symptoms. However, if you have pain as well, there might be something going on.

Crepitus is one of the symptoms of osteoarthritis, so your doctor will want to check whether or not you have any other signs of this condition. It can also indicate that you might have a knee injury or another type of arhritis.

Crepitus is usually harmless and doesn’t require treatment. If you do have pain alongisde the clicking, your doctor will diagnose the exact cause in order to determine the best course of treatment.

If you have osteoarthritis, a variety of treatments can help you manage symptoms. Experts currently recommend:

  • managing your weight
  • exercising regularly
  • using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • taking prescription medications
  • having steroid injections
  • applying heat and ice packs to reduce inflammation
  • doing physical therapy and strengthening exercises

Read on to learn more about treatment for osteoarthritis.

Cracking and popping sounds in your knees aren’t usually a sign of anything serious, and most people don’t need treatment.

However, if you have pain or other symptoms with noisy knees, it may be a good idea to see a doctor.

Exercise, diet, and weight management are all ways of keeping your knee joints healthy and preventing future problems. They can also help you manage symptoms and slow the damage to your knees if you have osteoarthritis.