3 Stretches You Can Do in 3 Minutes to Stop Your Knees From Cracking and Popping

Why Do My Knees Crack?

Tired of sounding like Rice Krispies in milk whenever you stand or sit? Cracking and popping in the knees can be the sound of fluid getting pushed about or it can be something more serious involving bones and connective tissues.

Cavitation occurs when joints move and the synovial fluid changes pressure, releasing carbon dioxide bubbles. This is common and no cause for alarm.

Some people may also feel a grinding sensation in the knees when squatting; if it doesn’t hurt, it’s known as benign crepitus.

If you experience knee pain when sitting or squatting, however, there may be more going on.

Crepitus (the non-benign kind) occurs when cartilage rubs against the bones and tissues in the joint, eventually wearing the cartilage and causing pain upon movement, often a precursor to osteoarthritis. Strain or injury to the knee joint can result in tears in the meniscus (cartilage) or patellofemoral pain syndrome—pressure build-up behind the kneecap. These conditions should be reviewed with a medical professional.

Three Stretches To Get Rid of Knee Popping and Cracking Noises

1. Calf Release

This exercise uses pressure to relieve muscle tension in the calves. Remember that all muscles in the body are connected to one another—calf muscles join the upper part of the leg at the knees.

To stretch:

Sit on the floor with a tennis or other firm ball under the top of the left calf. Lay your right leg on top of your left, crossed at the ankles. Place your hands flat on the floor however they feel most comfortable. With weight on your hands, roll your calf forward and back over the ball. If you find a tender spot, stop rolling and flex your left foot back and forth for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat as necessary.

2. Hip Flex or Release

Sometimes knee discomfort can be caused by a misaligned hip or tight hip flexor muscles in your pelvis. Releasing these muscles can bring relief all the way down your leg.

To stretch:

Tape or wrap 2 tennis balls together and place on the floor. With upper body weight on your hands, lie face-down with the balls just below the left hip bone, allowing your lower body to rest on the balls. Bend your left knee up to a 90° angle and slowly swing it from side to side for 30 seconds—stop if the knee hurts. Repeat with the balls under the right hip and as necessary.

3. IT Band Release

The iliotibial (IT) band is a ligament that runs from your hip to your knee along the outside of the thigh and connects at the knee joint, stabilizing the hip. It’s very common for runners and other athletes to experience tightness of this ligament, causing inflammation and discomfort.

it-band

How to stretch your knee:

Lie on the side you want to release and place a foam roller or firm ball under your bottom leg, halfway between your hip and knee. Slowly roll your leg up and down over the foam roller, allowing your body weight to rest fully on it and moving up from the top of the knee to the base of the hip. Repeat in 30-second intervals for 2 minutes.

If you find a tender area, focus on it and hold your position there for a few seconds to encourage it to release, then roll back to the starting position and pause. Bend your knee at a 90-degree angle and roll again, focusing on the sore spot, then straighten and roll again. Repeat this for 10-15 seconds.

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