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3 Common Reasons Your Knee Replacement Makes Noise

The 3 most commonly reported sounds a knee replacement makes after surgery is

  • clicking,
  • grinding,
  • and popping [1].

This may obviously be a little disconcerting for any person who is not prepared for this. Though it should be noted that these noises are not uncommon and may be completely normal, many patients are not expecting to experience this.

Will my knee replacement make noise forever?

Not usually. A knee replacement will most often make a tapping sound between 2 and 10 weeks after surgery.

In this article, we are going to take a deep dive into the topic of knee replacement sounds and look at the most commonplace noises that total knee replacement patients experience after their surgery, including when the noises first crop up, what we believe the cause of the noise is, and how to reduce-if not eliminate entirely-them.

Why does my knee replacement make n...

Is It Normal for an Artificial Knee to Make Noises?

Absolutely. Popping, grinding, and clicking noises are very common in the aftermath of complete knee replacement surgery. They are, in fact, quite common in perfectly healthy knees that have not been replaced.

Below (reference) you will find a table that shows how often noises are heard after knee replacement surgery.

Why Now?

One of the more common questions from knee replacement patients upon experiencing these noises is, “why didn’t it these noises before?”. One reason this might be the case is due to the knee being tight due to muscle guarding and swelling. It is worth remembering that surgery-even textbook successful surgery-is still traumatic for the body.

Noises as a result of this don’t tend to present until around six weeks after the operation due to the fact that, during this time, a gradual reduction of the swelling occurs and the range of motion improves.

It is also relatively common for noises like this to occur around the twelve weeks mark, which can largely be put down to patients starting to increase their level of activity as their recovery continues.

How Long Does it Last?

Noises like this that are a result of the surgery tend to take two to three weeks to stop, though many factors come into play regarding the exact timeframe. It is our opinion that the noises stop as the muscles strengthen throughout the recovery process, and the patients become more comfortable with their new knee and the range of motion they have. The internal structure of the knee-the tendons and ligaments-also has time to “bed in”, so to speak.

It is true that some people find that these sounds do not go away as soon as others, but the sounds are typically painless, and the patient typically becomes used to the sound.

What is Making the Clicking Sound?

Understanding something is often the first step to dealing with it, and knee replacement noises are no exception. The most likely cause of the clicking noise is the knee cap (officially known as the patella) tapping on the new implant at the base of the thigh bone.

This type of tapping is typically most evident when walking at the point in your step where the knee begins to bend after being fully extended. It is also commonly heard when climbing up or down stairs.

X-Ray Image Of Total Knee Replacement

X-Ray Image Of Total Knee Replacement

What About Grinding Noises?

That’s clicking explained, but what about grinding? Well, this type of noise is usually down to the knee cap coming into contact with the edges of the trochlear groove, something that is referred to as “crepitus”. You can think of this groove as a recess at the end of your thigh bone where the knee cap sits. Prior to the surgery, patients will often experience the kneecap acting in this manner.

This grinding noise will likely be experienced when moving from an extended (straight) leg position to a slightly bent position while bearing weight. A common situation where this would happen is when walking downstairs, or on slopes.

Sometimes, patients will experience this same grinding noise after their knee replacement procedure. You can see an example of this in the video below.

How to Stop the Grinding

One of the simplest things you can try is to ensure you stay well hydrated and active, improving your joint lubrication as well as your mobility. Hydration is simple enough-drink plenty of water-and, as, for exercise, walking is always a good option, but strength and balance exercises, as well as recumbent bike sessions, are also good.

Another option is physical therapy. By improving the alignment of your knee you can reduce the grinding noise. This will likely involve working on your hip and ankle, as they are often the cause of poor knee alignment.

Why does my knee replacement make noise?

Why does my knee replacement make noise?

Q-Angle What is That?

The Q-angle is the angle between the thigh bone and shinbone (or femur and tibia), and changes in this angle can cause or contribute to crepitus. If a patient is experiencing grinding in their knee after the procedure, the Q-angle may be checked to see if anything is amiss, as shown in the video below of a patient who started hearing a grinding noise after twelve weeks of recovery.

The Warning Signs of a Knee Replacement Going Bad

Hopefully, this post has helped to alleviate some of the stress knee replacement patients feel when they start to experience noises from their new knee. Still, even though noises after this kind of procedure are common-even normal-it is essential that you understand the warning signs of a failing knee, the most common of which are pain and instability in the knee.

Both pain and instability can manifest in different ways, but to give an example of instability in a knee replacement, if you find yourself walking in a perfectly normal fashion but find that your knee buckles when you attempt to change direction, this is a bad sign. It should be noted that you do not need to actually fall over for this to be considered a red flag. If you experience uncontrollable buckling of the knee, it’s time to see your surgeon.

Pain is relatively self-explanatory. Pain in the knee-especially when accompanied by redness, heat, and swelling-should not be ignored. If you experience these symptoms, it is time to book an appointment with your surgeon as soon as possible.

With all that being said, it is worth noting that joint failure after a knee replacement operation is not a common occurrence. As one study found;

 

“They found the most common cause of revision knee arthroplasty was infection at 25.2%, implant loosening at 16.1%, and implant failure or breakage at 9.7%” [2]