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My knees crack a lot when I stand up. Should I be worried?

December 11, 2014

My knees crack a lot when I stand up. Should I be worried?

If you're not experiencing pain or swelling, no. Experts used to think that cracking your joints caused arthritis, but the latest research shows no such link. These sounds happen for a few reasons. First, when you stand up, the load on your joints changes. This can make the gases in the fluid that lubricates your knees (called synovial fluid) form bubbles that pop. Another culprit: Cartilage that cushions joints gets uneven in places as you age, so you might hear rough spots gliding over one another. Or you may be hearing the ligaments—tissues that connect bones—tightening.

Painful popping, however, can signal osteoarthritis, which is when the cartilage degenerates, causing friction in the joints. Treatment is a combination of pain meds, physical therapy and weight loss (if you're overweight). Pain may also signal a tear in the meniscus, which is the disk of cartilage that sits atop your shinbone. The tear may heal on its own, but if it keeps hurting, you might need surgery to fix it.

RELATED: 10 Exercises for Healthy Knees

Health's medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.

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