Have you ever been walking up the stairs and suddenly you hear your knee pop? What about when you stand up from your chair and notice an almighty creak from your poor joint? While cracking knees aren't exactly uncommon - particularly for people over a certain age, they can quickly become a concern for many people.
A video created by a team of researchers which shows them using a device to record and amplify the sound of the most used joints in the body has lead horrified individuals to seek out solutions for their own cracking knees. Most of the time, cracking knees occur as a result of the fluid coating your joints being pushed through certain ranges of motion. In these circumstances, the sound is nothing to be concerned about, and you won't have to worry about finding ways to get healthier joints. However, if the creaking sounds in your knees are accompanied by consistent inflammation or pain that leaves you reaching for your knee compression sleeves, this could be a red flag that something is seriously wrong.
What Causes Cracking Knees
If your cracking knees are accompanied by pain or discomfort, then you need to start speaking to a doctor or professional physiotherapist about the steps you can take to get healthier joints. Often, painful and noisy knees are caused by a combination of misaligned or tight muscles that pull the cap of the knee out of alignment, leading to discomfort, worn cartilage, and even an increased risk of early onset arthritis over time.
Other causes of creaking knees may include:
- An injury or damage to the joint that has gotten worse with the natural changes the body undergoes during aging. Any trauma to the meniscus, ligaments, or soft tissues around the knees invariable hurts the cushioning between the bones, which makes it more difficult for your knee to bear the weight of your body. In this case, failing to get healthier joints could mean that you have trouble walking around on a regular basis, even with your knee compression sleeves.
- Natural wear and tear of knee cartilage. Over time, the cartilage around the knee naturally begins to wear down, which can make joint movements more painful. Importantly, even if you discover that your cracking knees are a result of natural changes in your body, this doesn't mean that you can't take steps to get healthier joints and reduce the discomfort you experience on a regular basis. For instance, even joint conditions like osteoarthritis can be helped by regular exercise and physical therapy.
- Runner's knee - a condition in which the kneecap becomes misaligned and causes the thighbone to rub against the knee cap, can also contribute to cracking knees. In these circumstances, you will often feel significant pain towards the front of the knee, and find that the problem becomes worse when climbing stairs or running.
How to Get Healthier Joints
Knowing the cause of your cracking knees is a good place to start when you're considering tracking down potential treatment options. After all, if your knee pain or discomfort is caused by an injury, allowing that injury to heal could completely alleviate the problem. One of the best ways to fight back against creaky joints and knee pain, is with regular exercise that has been approved by your doctor or physical therapist.
According to doctors, the more you move around, the more the joints in the body naturally lubricate themselves, making it easier for you to avoid the creaking, cracking, and discomfort of misaligned or tight knees. When you've been sitting around for too long, the fluid in your joint can't move properly, but as you begin to move you improve your range of motion, while strengthening the muscles that support your knees in the first place.
The following exercises are specifically designed to help strengthen the muscles around the knee that, like your knee compression sleeves, support the cap and the joint during motion so that you're less likely to suffer from cracking noises and discomfort. Engaging in just a few of these exercises on a regular basis can help you to get healthier joints, and banish cracking knees.
1. Calf Release
A calf release is an exercise that helps to relieve some of the tightness and tension that can build up around the knee joint as a result of consistent pressure. Releasing allows you to ensure that your calf muscles fall back into the correct position, so that your knee joint can be properly supported as you move.
To complete a calf relief, begin by sitting with your legs stretched outwards, your calf balancing on a tennis ball. Stack the other leg on top of the balancing calf, and roll yourself up and down over the ball, watching for points that are tender in your leg. Once you notice a pain point, stop and move your foot up and down for thirty seconds, to stretch the muscle.
2. IT Band Release
The IT, or Iliotibial band is a ligament that runs along the outer side of your thigh all the way from your shin, to your hip. Because it is attached to the knee, this ligament helps to move and stabilize the joint as you walk, which can mean that it pulls the cap out of alignment when it becomes inflamed or tight.
To get healthier joints and avoid cracking knees, lie on the side you want to release, and place a foam roller device under the bottom half of your leg, half way between your knee, and your hip. Slide your leg down and up over the roller, working over tender areas as much as you can tolerate. To focus on a specific area, locate a tender spot, and bend your knee to a ninety-degree angle, before straightening it, and continue this motion for about fifteen seconds.
3. VMO Activation
Finally, the vastus medialis oblique is a tear-shaped muscle that runs alongside the inside of your kneecap. When the VMO is weak, it can pull your kneecap off track, which leads to painful joints and cracking sounds.
To strengthen this muscle, apply your knee compression sleeve and stand in a split stance, with your weight situated towards the front of the leg. Squat straight down, keeping your knee above your ankle, and twist your front leg to the right, holding the position for five seconds.
Strength Exercises to Build Better Knees
While you should already know that strength exercises are excellent for eliminating stubborn visceral fat, it may be worth noting that they're also an incredible way to build up the muscles around your joints, so you're less likely to suffer from knee-related injuries. The cure for knee pain can be different for different people, but strengthening exercises are a great way to ensure that you're less likely to suffer from injuries in the first place.
The following exercises will help you to build better knees, while ensuring that you have the stability and strength to continue working towards a slimmer stomach, a healthier lifestyle, and an all-around amazing body.
Before you get started with the exercises mentioned on this list, you might find that you benefit from using a knee compression sleeve to enhance joint support and keep circulation flowing throughout your lower body.
1. Quad Clenches
Quad clenches are ideal for strengthening and maintaining the quads and helping you build better knees without having to face too much motion in the joint. Start by lying flat on your back, with your legs completely straight, then tense the muscle towards the front of your thigh by pressing your knee towards the floor. You should be able to feel the muscles clench in the top of your leg.
2. Long Arcs
Long Arcs increase your knee mobility, strengthen your quads, and are ideal for working out while you're at work or sitting on the train for your morning commute. Start by sitting on a chair with your foot against the floor and your knee bent. Lift your foot upwards, and straighten your knee as much as possible, holding for between three to five seconds before you slowly lower your foot back to the floor.
3. Hamstring Clenches
Sit in a chair, once again with your heel pressed to the leg of the chair and your feet firmly on the floor. Press your heel backwards into the chair leg until you feel the back of your thigh clenching or tightening. Hold the position for at least five seconds, before relaxing, then repeat as necessary to continue strengthening your hamstrings and build better knees.
4. Knee Marching
Build better knees and increase your quads strength by sitting on a chair with your feet against the floor. March your legs up and down one at a time, as though you were trying to move forward, making sure not to slam your foot down as you move, as this will place undue stress on your knee joints. Try to keep going for one to five minutes, depending on your fitness level.
5. Buttock Kicks
Finally, lie on your stomach, either on a mat, or on your bed, with your legs as straight as possible. Carefully lift your foot up away from the floor, and bring it backwards towards your rear - bending your knee as much as possible without allowing for too much discomfort. Slowly return to the starting position, and repeat the movement with the other leg to gradually build better knees.
Enjoy Stronger Knees
Now that you know what causes cracking knees, and how to get healthier joints, you should be able to build a fitness routine that focuses on developing stronger knees, free from pain. The stronger your knees become, the less likely you will be to suffer from discomfort in various parts of your life.
Recovering from a Knee Injury? Find out the best way to stay active, whilst strengthening your joints without pain here.