Do Noisy Knees Mean Osteoarthritis?

By: Alexa Nicole Fiffick, DO, MBS • Posted on September 23, 2021

Do Noisy Knees Mean Osteoarthritis?

Knee Arthritis

Knee arthritis is one of the top causes of disability in American adults. A study done by The Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI) recently looked to see if the grating noises caused by knees was indicative of future osteoarthritis of the knees.

OAI Findings

  • The study looked at patients aged 45-79 and found that those with crepitus (noisy knees) were more likely to demonstrate findings consistent with osteoarthritis on an X-ray compared to those without.
  • This suggests that crepitus may be predictive of future osteoarthritis in this age group. However, this does not apply to younger patients.

The OAI is a multi-center, ten-year observational study of men and women, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (part of the Department of Health and Human Services). The OAI aims to provide resources to better understand prevention and treatment of knee osteoarthritis. So, what is osteoarthritis? How do you know if you’re at risk? Do your noisy knees mean it’s going to happen to you? And what can you do about it?

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and becomes more common in adults with age. It is caused by a breakdown of the joints over time. The cartilage that is located on the ends of the bones is there to help cushion the joints on impact and allows them to glide back and forth smoothly.

  • Osteoarthritis can be caused by wear and tear, genetic predisposition or other comorbidities.
  • Osteoarthritis can lead to the degradation of the cartilage, inflammation of the surrounding tissues and even reshaping of the bones involved.
  • All these changes in the cartilage, tissues and bones can cause significant pain.


What are the risk factors for osteoarthritis?

  • Age
  • Obesity - Every extra 10 pounds of body fat puts an additional 30-60 pounds of pressure on the knee joint. Extraneous fat cells also promote pro-inflammatory processes, leading to joint damage.
  • Overuse
  • Injury, weak muscles or MSK structural abnormalities
  • Genetics
  • Sex - Women have less cartilage in certain joints, such as knees, compared to men. Also, women who are post-menopausal are more likely to develop OA as they lose estrogen.

What are the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis?

  • Joint pain - which may improve with rest
  • Joint stiffness - lasting about 30 minutes in the beginning of the day and with joint use
  • Decreased range of motion in a specific joint
  • Joint instability
  • Crepitus - cracking or grating sounds

What to do if you Have Noisy Knees?

  1. Talk to your doctor about how to minimize joint damage
  2. Maintain or work towards a healthy weight
  3. Eat a healthy diet
  4. Physical activity at tolerated levels

Be Strong, Be Healthy, Be in Charge!
- Alexa N. Fiffick, DO

References:
  1. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
About Alexa Nicole Fiffick, DO, MBS

Dr. Alexa Nicole Fiffick is a Board Certified Family Medicine physician. She is a first year clinical Specialized Women’s Health Fellow at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Specialized Women’s Health.

Dr. Fiffick was born and raised in Greater Cleveland, Ohio. She graduated from Case Western Reserve University in 2012 with a Bachelor’s in Sociology with minors in Dance and Chemistry. She achieved a Master’s in Biomedical Science at The Commonwealth Medical College in 2013. She spent a year working in research at the Cleveland Clinic. Then, she went to medical school at Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine, graduating in 2018.

Dr. Fiffick graduated from Doctors Hospital Family Medicine program for residency, with a certified focus on Women’s Health. She spent time working with underserved communities via Mobile Medicine in residency. Through this she fell in love with caring for underserved women and women in mid through later life.


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