This blog will briefly discuss two (seperate) things; patellofemoral joint pain (PFP) and crepitus. PFP is pain around or behind the kneecap, aggravated by activities that load the kneecap joint, such as walking up stairs, kneeling or squatting. Crepitus is the grinding, creaking noise that the knee – or any other joint – makes during movement.
It’s understandable to think that a noisy joint leads to or is caused by injury. However, crepitus can be present with absolutely no pain or injury! Although more common in people with pain, crepitus can be present in up to ⅓ of people without knee pain. And, even if you have PFP, the presence of crepitus has been shown to have no influence on pain severity, self-reported function, and pain when squatting or climbing stairs.
The creaking noise can cause a lot of anxiety for people. It is normal to worry about what the noise means. Unfortunately, people tend to associate it with “getting old”, “worn out bones”, and “long-term damage”. People with PFP think of crepitus as a “symbol of disease”, which can lead to them avoiding physical activity, social events and rehabilitation. And to make matters worse, research shows that health practitioners often fail to provide appropriate education or reduce patients’ fear.
So it is important to realise, that the creaking and grinding noise doesn’t mean the joint is being damaged. It is a normal finding in people with perfectly pain-free knees. If the noise is meaningful to you and creating barriers to exercise, then it is important to speak to a health professional that can help you manage it. There are variations on exercises that will limit the amount of creaking and grinding. And there are several treatments and exercises which can help with knee pain. Don’t let the noise slow you down!