Why does my knee crunch when I squat?

This is one of the most common questions we are asked in clinic, even when people are not being seen for knee pain. More than half of our patients that have this problem also have no pain associated with the crunching, but are simply worried about what it could mean.

Our knee is made up of numerous joints.  One of the biggest moving joints is the patellofemoral joint, or the joint between the kneecap and the large leg bone, the femur, underneath.  When we bend our knee (i.e. in a squat, sitting down, climbing stairs) the knee cap moves to enable us to complete these tasks efficiently.

The kneecap attaches to the large muscles in the front of our leg, also known as the quadriceps.  When these muscles get tight, they can cause an imbalance in the force running through our knee and place undue pressure through the kneecap.

Along with this, numerous other factors such as hip tightness, hip weakness, the shoes we wear and our foot shape can affect the position of the knee and result in even more pressure.  Over time, if these issues are not addressed, ‘rough spots’ can develop on the cartilage on the back of the patella, causing the typical crunching sound and some swelling without necessarily causing pain.

Whether your knee crunching is painful or not, it is a good idea to get it checked out sooner rather than later. Most of the time mild to moderate pain through the knee can be diminished relatively quickly with a physiotherapist, with the aim being to loosen the tight joints and muscles around the knee and build strength through specific exercises.  This will put your knee in a better position and get you back to work or sport in as little time possible.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to give us a call!