We’ve all been there and we’ve all had that uncomfortable feeling – the feeling that there is so much pressure building up behind your knee that is needs to snap back into place. That’s how it feels like – your knee feels like it needs to pop.
The good news is that usually, a popping knee isn’t something you should be overly worried about, and for the most part is something that can be put down to general wear and tear. Although our bodies are machines that work well, occasionally things will go a little awry. A popping knee is one example of this.
Why does my knee feel like it needs to pop?
If the popping is caused by overuse, generally the noise and pressure happens because damage or wear and tear has been caused to the joint. When you stand up, the knees are trying to take your entire body weight and if they aren’t in tip-top condition, they can creak, squeak and make popping noises as the cartilage rubs, and on occasion, the knee pops itself back into place.
There are, in fact, quite a few reasons why your knee feels like it needs to pop. Just take a look at some of these:
There are two bones in the knee – the femur and the tibia, and these have a line or cartilage running between them. This fibrous and soft cartilage is called the meniscus and helps to lubricate the joint to ensure it moves smoothly, and also to ensure that the knee itself can carry and bear a tremendous force. Your knees are designed to carry your entire body weight after all.
If you suffer an injury to the meniscus, such as a tear, the joint becomes unstable and the missing or damaged cartilage means the knee doesn’t move as freely as it should, often popping into place, providing that pressure and noise you can hear. Over time, if the problem is not resolved, arthritis can occur because the missing lubrication forces extra pressure on a small part of the tibia.
Runners can often suffer with injuries and damage to the cartilage of the knee, causing Chondromalacia Patella or Runner’s Knee as it is otherwise known. Running, walking and jogging can cause this problem, often causing a lack or cartilage and therefore a lack of shock absorption, leading to problems, popping and pain.
The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, sits in the middle of the two bones that guides your shin bone and can withstand forces up to five hundred pounds in weight! Woven and long collagen strands make up the ligament and it is designed to stabilise the knee, guiding the shin bone through what is considered to be a normal sphere of movement.
If you run fast, jump, or change direction rapidly, you can experience a tear to the anterior cruciate ligament which patients report is incredibly painful. This connection between the shin and thigh bone, when damaged, will prevent the stabilisation of the two joints and will therefore cause a number of problems. Just some of these will include pain and a popping sensation.
Osteoarthritis of the Knee
Arthritis is something that many of us will experience as we age but osteoarthritis can happen at any age. Usually associated with being overweight or from a previous injury, the condition is a degenerative one that also comes with this familiar popping sensation as well as warmth and stiffness, pain and even swelling.
When you have osteoarthritis of the knee, the surfaces of the two joints become unstable which means they don’t move together smoothly. The jarred and jagged, unstable movements can lead to the pressure and need to pop.
If this condition of the knee is not diagnosed and treated, it can lead to popliteal cysts or Baker’s cysts. This occurs when too much lubricating fluid is produced by the knee joint and although painless, can lead to a misalignment and therefore a knee that feels like it needs to pop.
This is a real thing although it is more commonly known as bursitis of the knee. A bursa is a sac of fluid that sits underneath the skin, cushioning bones and tendons. They are commonly found over joints such as the knee, hip, shoulder and elbow.
With repetitive movements and other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or infections, the bursa can become inflamed and carpet fitters seem to find it a common problem because of the repetitive kneeling motion.
Ice packs can be used to treat the pressure and knee-popping sensation at home but the pain and swelling can stick around for a few weeks.
How to Pop Your Knee
There are a number of exercises you can perform from home to alleviate the need for a knee-pop. Start with a quadricep stretch – standing up straight with one arm in front of you, the second arm holding your ankle from the same side-leg against your hip. This will require some balance on your part so make sure you are near a door or wall to catch your balance if you lose it.
For a more stable knee-popping exercise, lie down straight on the floor, bend one knee and stretch the other leg right out in front of you, top half completely flat to the floor. Hold and alternate for ten seconds each leg until you feel the knee pop and the pressure release.
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