May 24, 2017

Announcer: Need reliable health and wellness information? Don't listen to the guy in the cube next to you. Get it from a trusted source, straight from the doctor's mouth. Here's this week's Listener Question on The Scope.

Interviewer: Today's listener question, "I have a popping knee, is that something I should worry about?" Cindy here says that her knee periodically throughout the day will pop. It doesn't hurt when it pops, but it does make a pretty loud noise when she's straightening her leg. She wanted to know if that's something that she should worry about. And to answer that question, we have Dr. Patrick Greis who is an orthopedic surgeon. He's at University of Utah Health Care in the Department of Orthopedics.

Dr. Greis: In general, small pops, catches are really not indicative of a big problem. And so, I tell folks if it's not very painful and it's kind of an uncommon click or pop that that's not really something that they need to be seeking medical care for.

Interviewer: Yes, but some periodic throughout the day that makes quite a bit of noise or that the person could feel, what could be going on there?

Dr. Greis: On occasion, some folks will have tears in the meniscus cartilage that can catch. Some mechanical symptoms such as popping or catching can be indicative of a meniscus tear. I think that's usually associated with some pain often along the joint lines.

Interviewer: So if the popping happens periodically throughout the day with no pain, it's really nothing to worry about? That seems counter-intuitive.

Dr. Greis: It's usually a process that's not dangerous. Again, it's hard for me as a surgeon to make you better if you have no pain. So I guess from my point of view, a small amount of clicking, popping noise is not something I'm going to go chasing routinely.

Interviewer: Is there anything that can be done, the person can be done to help alleviate it? Could it be a muscular imbalance, exercises, cycling?

Dr. Greis: Sure. The most common source of the small minor pop or click is kind of the patellofemoral joint, which is the front of the knee. And often, for those of kind of things, if people do come to see us, we prescribe a course of physical therapy with strengthening which often helps to mitigate or minimize the amount of popping and clicking that occurs.

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