It happens to nearly all of us: You get out of bed in the morning or stand after sitting for a while and your knee pops.

If crepitus in the knee occurs regularly and is accompanied by pain, it may be an indication of osteoarthritis. Read: Knee Osteoarthritis Video

When joints create a grinding or popping sound or sensation, this is known as crepitus. Occasional joint crepitus is considered normal and is no cause for alarm.

See Crepitus in the Knee

However, a large new study suggests that frequent knee crepitus may be an early warning sign of knee osteoarthritis.

See What Is Knee Osteoarthritis?

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The study included nearly 3,500 middle-age individuals with no initial symptoms of knee osteoarthritis and tracked them for 2 years. Researchers found that participants who reported having no knee pain, but frequent or constant knee crepitus, were at higher risk for having symptoms of osteoarthritis within a year.

See Why Do My Knees Pop?

This was especially true for those with physical signs of knee degeneration (via X-ray results) at the beginning of the study—despite making up only 26% of the total study group, 75% of them went on to develop symptoms of osteoarthritis.

See Knee Osteoarthritis Symptoms

More research is needed to establish what the connection is between frequent crepitus and osteoarthritis. But crepitus’s possible role as a warning sign of osteoarthritis means that people who experience frequent crepitus can take measures to protect their joints.

Osteoarthritis can’t be cured or prevented, but the sooner treatment starts, the easier it is to manage symptoms and slow degeneration.

See Osteoarthritis Treatment

Learn more:

Knee Osteoarthritis Causes

Knee Osteoarthritis Diagnosis

References:

  1. Lo GH, Strayhorn MT, Driban JB, Price LL, Eaton CB, Mcalindon TE. Subjective Crepitus as a Risk Factor for Incident Symptomatic Knee Osteoarthritis: Data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2017