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Real Life Fitness Questions Answered

Kelly Marshall
Fitness Consultant

Posted 21 Jun 09

What does the creaking in my knees mean?

Hi, I've noticed when I walk down the stairs in the morning, my knees really creak. It sounds like a crackling noise. Also when I am doing slow rep exercises. Any ideas what it might be?

Our expert says...



This is something known as ‘crepitus’ which is the medical term used to describe:

the grating, crackling or popping sounds and sensations experienced under the skin and joints ” (Wikpedia.org).

It is very common across most joints and can relate to muscle imbalances that place different stresses and pulls round a joint, which can cause bone and bone to make contact or cause soft tissue structures to ‘flip’ over bony prominences. It can also relate to age-related changes within a joint (i.e. wear and tear) and is common after an area has been subjected to trauma or injury.

It actually sounds worse than it is, as crepitus doesn’t have to be anything to concern yourself about. If your knees make noises / creaks / cracks etc but are not accompanied by pain simultaneously then you shouldn’t be too concerned, although you would benefit from training to improve the postural alignment of your lower limbs (see a personal trainer / corrective exercise specialist).

Long term noises can mean misalignment which can take its toll over time and this is when the noises are also pain forming. If you experience pain or weakness in your knees then it is in your best interest to get them assessed and proactively look to make changes to your lower limb muscle balance.

Hope this helps,