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What Happens When Your Knee Pops

Can I Pop My Knee Back Into Place

My knee pops and cracks. What could it be?

You cannot pop your knee back into place if you have knee dislocation. However, if it is only the kneecap that is dislocated and the injury is mild, the kneecap might be able to pop back into place by itself. Do not try to pop it back yourself as this may only result in further damage.

If your kneecap returns to its place by itself, it is still best to go to a doctor to have your knee checked. This is to ensure that you will be given proper treatment and to prevent further complications.

Why Do My Knees Pop

It happens to us all: You stand up after sitting for a while and you hear a loud “pop.” Why do knees do that? Is it bad?

Here are the short answers: 1) crepitus and 2) probably not, but possibly yes. Read on to find out why this happens, and when it’s worth worrying about.

Popping knees can be alarming, but are usually not a cause for concern.Crepitus in the Knee

Three Ways To Treat A Pop In The Knee

While the above orthopaedic conditions should be directly diagnosed and treated by a specialist, we have provided a few common recommendations knee doctors make when knee popping occurs. Talk to your physician before attempting to treat any injury yourself.

  • R.I.C.E.: For many injuries, to the knee or another part of the body, doctors suggest using the R.I.C.E. first. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation can reduce inflammation and pain and promote faster healing.

  • Proper immobilization: In addition to rest and compression, your physician may advise that you use a brace to prevent your knee from moving and to help you reduce discomfort. Depending on the type of brace and the particular patients living conditions, crutches may also be prescribed.

  • Rehabilitation exercises: Sometimes, a pop in the knee indicates instability, and thus the knee requires stronger surrounding muscles to support it during activity. Strengthening rehabilitation exercises, either given by your knee specialist or a physical therapist, can assist in stabilizing the area. While performing these activities, make sure to report any sensations of discomfort to a medical professional immediately. On a similar note, do not exercise too much at once, as overexertion of the area may worsen the condition.

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    A Meniscus Injury Can Cause Knee Pain Popping And A Locking Sensation

    Anther possibility for a pop in the knee and knee pain is a patient that comes in that describes a popping or a locking sensation in the knee. They usually dont have a high impact injury and lets just say theyre walking in the mall, or they do a twisting and turning rotation motion, or theyre playing tennis and all of a sudden their knee catches or gets stuck, and then it becomes very hard to straighten and it becomes painful until they get a pop.

    That can mean thats somethings actually getting caught in the joint itself, thats keeping them from extending the knee and that oftentimes means it might be a cartilage or meniscus injury. The meniscus are two discs within the knee. Theres one disc in the inside, the medial ligament meniscus and then theres a lateral meniscus. You can have a tear in either of those discs. They are actually cartilage discs, so this cartilage over time can get soft and all it can take is just a twisting motion, the catch can create a tear so the discs herethis is the medial meniscus, and this is the lateral meniscus. One meniscus on the inside and one on the outside of the knee joint, and you can have a tear right down the middle, like this, and on this view, looking at the knee straight on, like this, it looks like that.

    A Bucket Handle Tear Can Cause Your Knee to Lock

    Complementary And Alternative Therapies

    What makes joints pop and crack and is it a sign of disease?

    A number of mind-body therapies may be used to treat knee pain. These include:

    • Acupuncture
    • Tai chi

    These are especially common for knee osteoarthritis.

    The once-popular supplements glucosamine and chondroitin have fallen out of favor for knee osteoarthritis. That’s due to a lack of scientific proof. Always talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements or medications.

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    What Causes The Patella To Dislocate

    Acute patellar dislocation is caused by force, either from a direct impact or a bad step that uses your own body weight against you. A heavy fall or collision can knock the kneecap out of place. However, it doesnt always take that much. It may be caused by something as simple as a sudden turn that twists the knee while the lower leg is still firmly planted. Athletes and dancers, who are prone to quick pivots, are common victims of this.

    Some people have patellar instability, which means that the tendons and ligaments that hold the kneecap in place are already loose and unstable. This might be caused by a previous injury or by another preexisting anatomical condition. An unstable kneecap will dislocate more easily.

    People with congenital patellar dislocation are born with the condition. It is often, but not always, related to other developmental abnormalities.

    Heres A Summary Of Dr Bennetts Video On Knee Pain Causes

    My name is Dr. J. Michael Bennett. I am a Board Certified orthopedic sports medicine specialist welcome to my Whiteboard Series of patient education videos.

    Today were going to discuss the causes of knee pain, which is a question we get quite a bit. When many patients come to our clinics, their primary complaint is, My knee just popped, and now its swollen and hurts. What do I do? Were going to go over some things today regarding knee pain and a popping sensation in the knee and what exactly that means. If youd like to learn about whats involved in an orthopedic knee exam, please watch our video.

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    Whats The Prognosis After A Dislocated Patella

    If youve been treated for a first-time patella dislocation injury, your prognosis is good. Most people will recover fully within six weeks. Long-term complications may include a less stable knee joint and deteriorated cartilage, which can contribute to osteoarthritis later in life.

    If you have chronic patellar instability or recurrent patella dislocations, you may be a good candidate for surgery to help stabilize the joint. Surgery has a good success rate for stabilization, but it is associated with osteoarthritis down the road.

    Patellar Instability And Dislocation

    Why Does My Knee Snap, Crack, or Pop? Is it Harmful? What To Do?

    Your knee also might dislocate without an injury because thereâs a problem with the structure. Thatâs called patellar instability. Itâs most common in children and teens, though it can happen in adults, too. Structural issues might include:

    • The kneecap rests in a notch at the end of the thigh bone called the trochlear groove. If that notch is very shallow or uneven, itâs easier for the patella to slide out of place.
    • Your ligaments are looser, making your joints more flexible and likely to dislocate. This is especially true of girls.
    • Cerebral palsy and Down syndrome can cause muscle weakness and balance problems that affect kneecaps.
    • Some children are born with unstable kneecaps.

    No matter the cause, symptoms of kneecap dislocation are the same.

    If itâs only part of the way out, youâll get a brace to keep you from moving your knee. Within 1 or 2 weeks, youâll start physical therapy to strengthen your thigh muscles. You can expect about 1 to 3 months for recovery.

    If it pops totally out, your doctor will first gently push it back into place. In some cases, you might also need surgery to repair damage to your thigh bone or the cartilage behind your knee.

    If it keeps happening, you may need surgery to tighten the ligaments and help keep your kneecap on track.

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    A Look At The Knee Joint

    The knee works like a large hinge. It consists of bones, cartilage, the synovium, and ligaments.

    Bones: The knee joins the thighbone to the long bone of the lower leg . The fibula, a bone in the lower leg, is also connected to the joint. The kneecap is the small, convex bone that sits at the front of the knee, shielding the joint.

    Cartilage: Two thick pads of cartilage called the menisci cushion the tibia and femur, and reduce friction where they meet.

    Synovium: A specialized connective tissue that lines joints and tendon sheaths. Synovial fluid serves to lubricate the joints.

    Ligaments: Four ligaments tough, flexible bands that stretch across the uneven surface of the joints connect the bones.

    Crepitus happens for various reasons, apart from osteoarthritis. Here are some of them:

    Knee Dislocation And Kneecap Dislocation Are Two Different Conditions

    Knee dislocation occurs when the thigh bone moves out of its place relative to the shin bone. This rarely happens and it usually occurs together with ligament and/or tendon rupture.

    It is caused by trauma such as falling from a height, sports-related accidents, or an automobile accident. Knee dislocation is a severe injury that involves the entire knee joint and is associated with nerve damage and rupture of the blood vessels.

    Kneecap dislocation is a common and less severe injury as it only involves the kneecap or the flat bone in the front of the knee. The kneecap is situated on a groove on top of the knee where the thigh and shin bones meet.

    It is kept in place by tendons and ligaments. As you straighten and bend your knee, the kneecap moves along this groove. Kneecap dislocation occurs when the kneecap moves out of its groove as a result of trauma or during sudden twisting or changing direction when the foot is fixed on the ground.

    The kneecap can be dislocated on either side of the knee, but it is commonly dislocated towards the outer side.

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    What The Clicking Is Not

    Many of our patients worry that the clicking represents the bones rubbing together and causing damage to the joints. This is simply not the case. It is normal for knees to click, they are moving parts with many structures that move and glide next to each other when you bend and straighten the knee, for example when going up or down the stairs.

    Acl Tears: The Season

    Knee clicks with pain? See your provider

    Orthopedic surgeon F. Winston Gwathmey Jr., MD, specializes in sports medicine. He shares that the anterior cruciate ligament tear is the most noticeable knee pop that you won’t be able to walk off. An ACL tear isnt as common as other knee injuries, but it can still happen.

    Most ACL tears are non-contact, meaning that nothing collides with the knee to cause the injury. Your knee needs to be in a certain position and receive the correct amount of force to tear the ACL. You may hear a pop and then youll feel it immediately. You’ll fall to the ground as your knee gives out. It’ll feel like someone tackled you. Since the ACL has a rich blood supply, the knee swells quickly and gets big.

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    Why Does My Knee Pop Or Crack After Knee Surgery

    Popping and cracking in your knee can worry you, but it isnt always a sign of serious damage in your knee. In this Ask Dr. Geier video, I discuss why might your knee pop or crack, especially in the days and weeks after undergoing knee surgery.

    Jon asks: I had my ACL reconstruction and medial meniscus repair surgery 6 days ago. Is it normal to hear a popping/clicking sound whenever I try to bend my leg for therapy?

    Sometimes popping in your knee represents wear and tear of the articular cartilage lining the bones of your knee . There are fairly normal reasons for popping, though. For example, your patella might track just little differently, or the cartilage under your patellar might be a little soft.

    After knee surgery, the knee is often swollen. Also, the quadriceps muscles can be weak. These factors can affect your knee and can lead to popping and cracking. In this video, I discuss these and other factors that can make your knee pop and crack after knee surgery.

    Also read:

    Real Worry: Loud Pop At Time Of Injury Followed By Swelling Instability And Giving Way

    When a patient says to me, Doc, I heard a pop and my knee swelled, it is definitely a cause for concern. If there is a pop at the time of injury, the knee has almost certainly been damaged. You have most likely injured either your ligaments anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligamentor medial collateral ligament or the meniscusor articular cartilage. The knee will usually swell up after these kinds of injuries.

    If there is pain, swelling, or giving way of the knee, we will do a careful exam, history, X-ray, and MRI. By studying the cartilage and soft tissue within the knee, we can determine which tissues need to be repaired. Sometimes careful physical therapy, combined with injections, can fix the problem and help you avoid surgery.

    So remember: If you hear clicks and pops in your knee but feel no pain or swelling, dont worry. It is normal. If you have pain, instability, or swelling, make sure you check it out to avoid further damage to the joint. The philosophy on this has changed from rest your knee and wait until you are older for a joint replacement to fix the problem ASAP by repairing, regenerating, or replacing the missing tissue and cartilage so that you may never develop arthritis or need a knee replacement.

    While it is always best to hear the sounds of silence, snap, crackle, and pop sometimes need to be listened to as well.

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    If You Keep Dislocating Your Kneecap

    Most people who dislocate their kneecap will not dislocate it again. But in some people it can keep happening.

    This often happens if the tissues that support the kneecap are weak or loose, such as in people with hypermobile joints, or because the groove in the bone beneath the kneecap is too shallow or uneven.

    Regularly doing the exercises your physiotherapist recommends can help strengthen the tissues that hold the kneecap in place and reduce the risk of dislocating it again.

    Surgery may occasionally be needed if the kneecap keeps dislocating. A common procedure is a medial patellofemoral ligament repair.

    This is where the connective tissue that helps hold the kneecap in place is repaired and strengthened.

    Page last reviewed: 20 May 2019 Next review due: 20 May 2022

    Is It Normal For My Knees To Crack All The Time

    Knee Popping, Cracking and Pain

    Many people experience popping or cracking in their knees when squatting, and while this can sound concerning, it is actually very common. As long as you dont have pain or swelling associated with your knee popping, you most likely dont have anything to worry about. There are a few reasons why your knees may develop these sounds. As we get older, the cartilage in the knees can develop uneven areas due to wear and tear. The ligaments in the knee joint could also be tightening or shifting as you move, creating an audible sound.

    If the popping or cracking in your knees is painful or leads to swelling, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to be evaluated. An injury or chronic condition in the knee may require treatment to alleviate your pain and restore your range of motion. If the cartilage in your knee has undergone excessive wear and broken down, such as from arthritis, you will likely be recommended conservative therapies to manage your symptoms. Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, can gradually damage the cartilage in your knee and make it difficult to move normally without pain. In these cases, knee replacement surgery may eventually become necessary if other treatments do not provide adequate relief.

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    Treatment For A Dislocated Kneecap

    If your kneecap has not corrected itself by the time you get to hospital, a doctor will manipulate it back into place. This is known as a reduction.

    You may be given medicine to ensure you’re relaxed and free from pain while this is done.

    Once the kneecap is back in place, you may have an X-ray to check the bones are in the correct position and there’s no other damage.

    You’ll be sent home with painkillers and your leg will normally be immobilised in a removable splint to begin with.

    A few weeks of physiotherapy will be recommended to aid your recovery.

    Surgery is usually only necessary if there was a fracture or another associated injury, such as a ligament tear.

    It may also be done if you have dislocated your kneecap at least once before.

    Patellar Dislocation Or Subluxation

    The kneecap, or patella, normally glides through a groove. A direct blow to the kneecap, usually from an accident or sports injury, can dislocate it from this groove. This is called patellar instability.

    Two types of patellar instability include:

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    Knee Popping By Activity

    Knee Popping When Extending: Knee popping when you straighten your knee is usually due to gas bubbles , plica syndrome or patellofemoral pain syndrome.

    Knee Popping and Pain When Bending: If you get knee popping and pain when bending your knee e.g. squatting down, it is most likely due to a problem with the knee cartilage such as a meniscus tear or chondromalacia patella.

    Knee Popping When Extending And Bending: If you get knee pain and popping with both knee flexion and extension, it is likely that there is damage to the joint surface such as cartilage damage or knee arthritis. If there is no pain, it is likely to be gas bubbles popping.

    Knee Popping With Twisting: Sudden knee pain and popping when you twist is usually doe to a knee ligament injury, most often an ACL injury and/or MCL tear. If the knee swells up or feels unstable after hearing a pop as you twisted, seek medical attention immediately.

    Knee Popping When Walking: Almost all the possible causes of knee popping that we’ve looked at here can cause knee pain and popping when walking, be it arthritis, runners knee, cartilage tear or ligament injury. There will usually be other symptoms associated here that will lead to a clearer knee pain diagnosis.


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