FEELING GREAT: The noise your knees

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QUICK question: “Are any irritating noises coming out of your knees yet?”

If not, give it time. Because, as you no doubt know, “clicking, clunking and cracking” are common, audible sounds that come as an inevitable consequence of growing older and they become more noticeable somewhere in the 40-50 age bracket.

Chances are that if you’re 50 or over, clicks and clunks might even be the first sound that you hear when you get out of bed in the morning. It happens to lots of people, and what’s just as common is a grating noise that occurs when the surfaces of your knee joints rub together each time you bend your legs (or move between positions!).

I could go on and on describing the different noises that come from ageing knee joints - it’s so common that the question “Why does my knee click and crack?” is one of the most frequent I get asked.

As it happens, is also one of the easiest to explain. So here goes: your knee’s job is to cushion and absorb the shock it receives from the pounding, twisting and impact of hard surfaces every time your foot lands when you walk.

Your knee takes a pounding from the hard surfaces you walk on, regardless of what else you do.

Add this to the pounding your knees take as a direct result of playing a game of five-a-side football after work in a sports hall, running along the beach, playing bowls, golf, or just taking a long walk around the park or in the hills or woods with friends on a weekend.

The upshot of all this is that, over time, this cartilage wears thin (or disappears completely), exposing nerves and causing pain but also leaving uneven surfaces that can collide – and because these bones in your knee joint are very tough and hard (as you might well expect), inevitably they cause a distinct noise when they rub against each other as you move your leg in and out of different positions.

And that’s it, nothing more to it. The phenomenon of knee joint noises explained in one column!

Now… what’s interesting is that the arrival of the noises doesn’t always mean you’ll get knee pain - not at first anyway.

But it’s often the first sign that trouble in the form of pain, stiffness and swelling is on the way - and you’re not too many years away from it.

If you like, it’s a warning sign to act fast and do something before things turn for the worse.

So what do you do about it?

Well. you have the option of doing nothing about it - or even trying one of those neoprene knee supports, which might help (but only for a short while), or you might opt for some simple exercises to strengthen the right muscles to help protect and support your knee – done once or twice per day they DO make a significant difference.

I’ll write more about “knees” and what you can do to protect yours, next week.