Select Page

Grating, cracking or popping sounds around joints may predict future arthritis, especially in the knees, according to a recent U.S. study.

Among thousands of people with no knee pain who were followed for three years, one quarter had noisy knees yet they made up three quarters of the cases of symptomatic knee arthritis that emerged by the end of the study period, researchers found.

“Many people who have signs of osteoarthritis on X-rays do not necessarily complain about pain. Presently, there are no known strategies for preventing the development of pain in this group,” said lead study author Grace Lo of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

Especially when people have joint space loss or other arthritis-related changes visible on X-rays, their also having noisy knees can be considered a sign of higher risk for developing pain within the next year, she said.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting more than 30 million adults in the United States, Lo and colleagues write in Arthritis Care and Research. Symptomatic knee osteoarthritis, which means X-ray evidence of arthritis plus pain or stiffness, affects about 16 percent of adults older than 60, they note.

Lo and colleagues analyzed data from 3,495 participants ranging in age from about 50 to 70 in a long-term study conducted in hospitals in Rhode Island, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland. None had symptomatic knee arthritis at the start.

The researchers looked at how often people experienced knee pain, stiffness and “crepitus,” or noises and scraping feelings in their knees.

During clinic visits, people were asked questions like, “Do you feel grinding, hear clicking or any other type of noise when your right knee moves?” and “During the past 12 months, have you had pain, aching or stiffness in or around your right knee on most days for at least one month?” The patients were evaluated at the beginning of the study and again at 12, 24 and 36 months. X-rays were also taken once a year.

At the start, 65 percent of participants said they had no crepitus, 11 percent experienced it “rarely,” 15 percent had it “sometimes” and 9 percent had it “often” or “always.”

Overall, 635 participants, 18 percent, developed symptomatic arthritis of the knee during the study period.

Even after adjusting for weight and other factors, researchers found that odds of developing symptomatic arthritis rose along with the frequency of crepitus. Those who reported it “rarely” had 50 percent higher risk than those who never had it, and those with crepitus “sometimes” or “often” had about double the odds.

People with crepitus “always” were three times more likely to develop arthritis over four years than those who never had it.

Older age and having crepitus also increased the likelihood of developing arthritis, and men with crepitus were more likely than women with noisy knees to go on to develop arthritis.

“Differences across genders is interesting and unexplained. This may tell us about differences in symptom reporting or the biology of osteoarthritis,” said Daniel Solomon, the chair of arthritis and population health at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“Knowing how to predict who will develop symptomatic osteoarthritis may give patients and providers clues to who should receive earlier treatment or even prevention,” Solomon, who wasn’t involved in the study, told Reuters Health by email.

“It would be helpful to look at the MRIs of the people who had X-ray evidence, no pain and always had crepitus to understand what is happening in their knees,” Lo said. “This could help identify ways to decrease the risk for developing knee pain.”

Since MRI scans are more sensitive than X-rays, Lo added, researchers for future studies may be able to see osteophyte formations or other symptoms around the knee that they can’t usually see.

“Not all noises coming from a knee are a bad sign,” she said. “It might be helpful to ask your doctor for an X-ray to see if you have evidence of osteoarthritis and then take precautions from there.”


Professional Scope of Practice *

The information herein on "Cracking, Popping Joints May Foretell Arthritis" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

Blog Information & Scope Discussions

Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.*

Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request.

We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez DC or contact us at 915-850-0900.

We are here to help you and your family.


Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*


Licensed in: Texas & New Mexico*

Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
My Digital Business Card