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Trainer Q&A: Why Does My Knee Crack and Pop?

Our expert explains why your knee cracks during workouts.
Knee injury prevention

Q: Why does my knee crack and pop during leg exercises?

A: Popping and cracking sounds are common with movements that involve bending or twisting. Concern is only when the popping and cracking sounds occur with pain. Your bones are covered with cartilage that allows them to move smoothly against each other. Training and being active over the years can create incongruencies in the cartilage leading to irregular gliding of your bones, creating this crepitus sound. 

Another source could be from your ligaments. Ligaments attach bone to bone and become tight with movements, such as twisting and bending. Performing any unnecessary twisting or “self cracking” is unwise and can lead to ligaments tearing or increasing the wear and tear on the cartilage. 

My formal diagnosis is Normal Knee Crepitus. If pain is occurring with this noise, than seek medical evaluation to rule out any ligament tear or osteophyte build-up in the knee joint. 

Q: What should I do to treat this issue?

  • Utilize soft tissue work to release muscle tightness using foam rolling, or having a credentialed clinician work on your muscles using several techniques can be a great asset to improve joint mobility.
  • Improve muscle flexibility with stretching  your quads and hamstrings.
  • Warm up before you exercise. Exercising cold joints and muscles can lead to injuries. 
  • Strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Recent studies have supported performing eccentric or muscle-lengthening exercises are important to help support the knee joint.

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