What causes my knee to click and do I need to worry?

If you’ve experienced clicking and catching of your knee, you’re not alone. This is a common problem that may be minor and mean nothing at all – or it could indicate more serious damage that will require the attention of a skilled knee specialist. At Plano Orthopedic, we’re always here when needed to help make an accurate diagnosis and provide you with the most effective treatment possible!


What are the possible causes of clicking and catching of the knee?

• Cavitation. Sometimes the noise you hear is due to tiny air bubbles inside the joint fluid, which build up with changes in the joint pressure. When the bubbles burst, this is called cavitation. Cavitation is typically something that is not worrisome – as long as it is unaccompanied by other symptoms (like swelling or severe pain).

• Ligaments and tendons. Another possible cause of clicking and catching of the knee is when the ligaments and tendons catch as they go over a bony lump – and pop as they snap back into place. Like cavitation, this is also not considered to be a serious problem if unaccompanied by other symptoms.

• Soft tissue. Clicking (and popping) may also be caused by the catching on soft tissue or scar tissue within the knee. Most of the time, these noises are natural and do not necessarily mean that you’ll develop other issues (including arthritis).

• Meniscus tear. If you feel some pain as the clicking/popping occurs, it could be a sign of a meniscus tear, which means there is a small piece of loose cartilage caught in the knee. Treatment for a torn meniscus commonly includes rest, pain relievers and physical therapy. Less commonly, surgery may be required.

• Osteoarthritis. If you’re experiencing painful and persistent clicking/popping, it could indicate osteoarthritis, in which the smooth cartilage has worn down and the bones cause friction when they rub against one another.

• Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. Another common problem that results in the clicking and catching of the knee is roughness on the undersurface of the patella, which is also referred to as “runner’s knee.” With this syndrome, you may often feel the popping, grinding, clicking or crunching more than you can hear it.

When should I be concerned enough to see a physician?

clicking and catching of your kneeIf you experience the clicking and catching — and it’s accompanied by swelling and/or severe and persistent pain — it’s time to see your physician for an examination and clear diagnosis. Also, if there’s a pop at the time of an injury and your knee begins to swell, it could very well be a sign that there has been damage. It could mean that you injured your anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament or medial collateral ligament – or the meniscus or articular cartilage.

A good rule of thumb is that if you experience clicking and catching of the knee, but feel no pain or swelling whatsoever, it’s likely normal. However, if you have pain, instability and/or swelling, be sure to see your physician in order to avoid further damage to the joint. Of course, if you’re worried even without pain or swelling, you should still consider seeing a knee specialist for your own peace-of-mind.

Plano Orthopedic

Our knee specialists at Plano Orthopedic are experts in a number of procedures to help patients recover from issues ranging from degenerative diseases to sports injuries. To schedule an appointment with one our knee specialists, please contact our scheduling department at 972-250-5700 – or request an appointment online.

Get your life back on track…at Plano Orthopedic!

Our doctors that treat knee issues

Dr. Matthew C. Comley

Shoulder, Knee and Sports Medicine
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Dr. Adam Wright

Hip and Knee
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Dr. John E. McGarry

General Orthopedics, Shoulder, Knee and Sports Medicine
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Dr. John W. Barrington

Hip, Shoulder and Knee Replacement
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Dr. Randal L. Troop

Shoulder, Knee and Sports Medicine
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