Crunchy sounds eminating from your knees can be a bit off-putting. Particularly if they are so noisy that they attract attention from other people during a squat session. But are they a problem?
First, what IS that noise? Crunchy, grindy-type noises (like someone eating granola) is often referred to as “crepitus” and may be the result of a variety of different pathologies.
Audible crepitus in the knees is a produced during bending and straightening of the knee by vibrations of the articular cartilage. It is a common symptom of osteoarthritis, particulary in the patello-femoral joint (the joint between the kneecap and the femur/thigh bone).
If there is pain in conjuction with creptius, it may indicate that there is a problem with the knee. In some cases, it may be that there is an imbalance of the muscles around the knee, causing the patella to track incorrectly in the groove, leading to uneven loading of the joint and a wearing away of the articular cartilage. If the knee is making more “clicking” noises or is locking/giving way during weight bearing, this may indicate a meniscal tear.
If the crunchy noise is just that, noise, and there is no associated pain, then don’t worry too much. Asymptomatic creptitus is common, and does not require treatment. However, If your knees are crunchy AND painful, then get yourself to your favorite physio/osteo/chiro for an assessment. You will most likely be given a series of stretches, stability exercises and possibly some taping of the knee to help fix it.