Why does my knee click when I step?
January 19, 2004 7:24 AM   Subscribe

Everytime I take a step, my left knee clicks. [More MedicFilter inside]

Yes, I'm sure I should take this to a doctor, but I only just moved and haven't signed on with one yet.

Since Saturday lunchtime everytime I climb a step/stair there's something in my left knee that clicks. It's not a proper bone dislocating click like I can produce in my fingers, more a feeling like something is catching and pinging past a snag.

The thing that's really driving me mad though is that I can feel the click in my neck and I can hear it clearly too (although I don't know if I can hear my knee or my neck).

Has anyone got any idea what this could be and if I should run (erm, hobble) to the doctors asap or ignore it and wait for it to go away?
posted by twine42 to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
Could be cartilage, could be ligament. Do you do a lot of sport? A friend of mine had got his knee in such bad shape that it would click with every step. Get yourself to a physio, and if you do do a lot of sport tell them and maybe get yourself a decent support. As an incentive another friend of mine had a slight knee problem which she did nothing about, one day she turned around and the ligament tore and the kneecap dislocated, which was no fun at all. She was able to push it back into place but it kept popping out if she put any weight on it, and was jolly painful with it. Knees can be v.painful and if you push them too far can be near impossible to get back into good shape, so best to catch trouble early. Do see someone medical.
posted by biffa at 7:33 AM on January 19, 2004

It's not a proper bone dislocating click like I can produce in my fingers, more a feeling like something is catching and pinging past a snag.

Sounds like a muscle (tendon, ligament, whatever) snapping over a bone. I sometimes get this with my ankle when I walk: CLICK! [footstep] CLICK! [footstep] etc, like a man with a strange limp, or an odd spur on only one boot. It's the tendon snapping over my ankle bone.

BUT: knees are painful when they go bad. You probably really should get it checked out.
posted by Shane at 7:59 AM on January 19, 2004

I suppose I should have said - I'm overweight (138kilos/300lb/21.5st), 6ft4 tall and do no exercise. On the flipside, I've lost a stone since xmas, so my knee should be under less stress, not more.

As a family we do have a history of cartilage problems. Ack.

I can make my tendon slip ove my ankle easily enough, but it's nopt that kind of noise. Sounds more metalic almost. It's the bit in my neck that worries me most, strangely.

Anyone else want to worry me more/reassure me? ;)

No? Oh well, doctors here I come...
posted by twine42 at 8:03 AM on January 19, 2004

By the way, my ankle has done this, occasionally but sometimes for days at a time, for as long as I can remember. No harm so far.

14# is quite a lot since Xmas, twine. Congrats!
posted by Shane at 8:04 AM on January 19, 2004

Like Shane, I can't remember when my ankle didn't do this, and I have memories of my infancy. It could very well be harmless, but it's an exceedingly bad idea to assume so, especially since it's new and unusual. Expect the doctor to tell you there's nothing they can do, but go on the chance that something needs to be treated.
posted by majick at 8:08 AM on January 19, 2004

Thanks Shane!
[dramatic pose]And I owe it all to the diet who's name causes flamewars![/pose]
posted by twine42 at 8:10 AM on January 19, 2004

A short article on knee noises. Briefly: if you're not having pain or instability on the knee, you can probably wait before seeing the doc, but it's worth mentioning when you do go. If you are, go today.
posted by daver at 9:16 AM on January 19, 2004

I just went to the doctor a month ago for knee pain, which started with clicking. He told me clicking was no big deal, that everyone's does that eventually. For the knee pain he told me to build up my quads to take the strain off the joint.
posted by frenetic at 9:21 AM on January 19, 2004

I've got no actual information for you, but my knees do that all the time, particularly when I'm exercising.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 9:47 AM on January 19, 2004

I can't remember where I read this but there is a particular type of knee problem that can cause this that can eventually lead to one's kneecap slipping in a bad way. This may or may not be the case with you but a doctor visit is in order.
posted by konolia at 10:52 AM on January 19, 2004

Unless your GP is a sports physician, I'd say a visit to the physiotherapist is in order, not a visit to the doctor.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:57 AM on January 19, 2004

Finally an AskMe question I can answer with relative certainty.

I had the exact same problem as you, and I'm in the same physical situation as you. Only difference was my clicking noise was in the right knee.

But anyway, I went to a sports medicine doctor and she said that it is extremely common, then named a muscle, or tendon, or ligament, or something that was responsible for making the sound. It is not a sign of any joint problem, or at least was not in my case.

Rather, she told me, it is caused by one muscle (or whatever) near the knee being weaker than another.

The solution is quite simple:

Sit upright on the floor, both legs out. Since it's your left knee that is clicking, taking your right leg and pull it towards your body, bending it at the knee and keeping it pointing up. Hold it as tight as you can against your chest with your arms, so that it doesn't move. Then lift your left leg up as high as you can (say 3-4 inches off the ground), hold it for a second, then let it go down. I don't remember how many reps she said to do, but 3 sets of 10 is probably close enough.

Do this every day, and the clicking should disappear pretty soon. I did, and in my case it was gone within a week. It will come back again, because you will no doubt stop doing the exercise, but it will disappear again for a few months when you start up again.

As you can tell from my imprecise language, I am not a doctor, and you should go see one and not just trust me, et cetera, et cetera.
posted by Hildago at 7:24 PM on January 19, 2004

Try googling "patellofemoral syndrome", because that seems to be what you and Hildago are describing. it's usually associated with pain, but the clicking may precede the pain. See if the simple exercises described help, but if it starts to hurt, see a sports medicine specialist or physiotherapist immediately.

This site has a pretty cool description of PF and some advice on managing it, but this should supplement rather than replace professional advice.
posted by maudlin at 8:35 AM on January 20, 2004

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