Snap! Crackle! Pop!

While you may think of three friendly elves on a cereal box, these same sounds aren't reserved solely for when you add milk to Rice Krispies. These sounds are known all too well by people who have experienced knee pain, which is a good majority of the population, especially athletes.

Athletes and active people tend to run into knee pain (literally) most often. This is because we use our knees for just about every physical activity. However, it's important to understand that knee pain can be degenerative as well. As we age, our muscles, joints and cartilage become less resilient, which often results in injury or pain. The snapping, cracking and popping comes into play when our knees are trying to tell us something just isn't right. Whether it is a tear, degenerative condition, dislocation or disease, these are some of the most common causes of knee pain and how you can help prevent them.


  • Meniscus Tears - An injury to the menisci is a very common sports injury because we use this tough cartilage to help us run, cut, twist and make sudden movements. Injury can occur when the knee joint is unnaturally twisted or over-flexed. A meniscus injury might involve a popping noise. To prevent meniscus tears it's important to wear appropriate athletic equipment, stretch and use proper technique.
  • Tendon/ Ligament Injuries - ACL, MCL, LCL and PCL injuries are damage to the tendons and ligaments in your knee joint. Typically, these result from over-stretching or tearing that particular ligament in the knee.


  • Osteoarthritis - This wear-and-tear condition occurs when the cartilage in your knee (or other joints) begins to deteriorate from age. Maintaining a healthy weight, active lifestyle and adequate nutrition are the best ways to prevent degenerative arthritis.
  • Rheumatoid - This type of arthritis differs from the former, as it is an autoimmune disease that causes join pain; therefore, it cannot be prevented. Yet, it can be managed through medical treatment.
  • Pseudogout - Knees are the most common joints affected as calcium pyrophosphate crystals develop in joint fluid, and like rheumatoid arthritis, pseudogout cannot be prevented, but can be treated with medication.

Other Conditions

  • Runner's Knee - Also known as chrondromalacia, runner's knee is one of the most common culprits of knee pain. Treatment usually involves rest and immobilization of the knee.
  • ITBS (IT Band Syndrome) - Iliotibial band syndrome is widespread in runners, cyclists, hikers and weightlifters. Common treatment includes icing, elevation and rest. The use of foam rollers to loosen the IT band is effective, although painful at times.
  • Tendinitis - An inflammation of the tendons in the knee can range from pain only after activity (without functional impairment) in its earlier stages, to a complete tendon tear requiring surgical repair. As is the case with runner's knee and ITBS, rest, ice, compression and elevation (the R.I.C.E method) can help treat early stages of tendinitis.

As one of our largest and most active joints, knees are highly susceptible to snapping, crackling and popping pain; yet, you can do your part to prevent it. If, however, you find yourself experiencing prolonged pain during and after activity, consider seeing a medical professional at West Valley Medical Center.