Knee replacement clicking

Is It Normal For A Knee Replacement to Click

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Before my knee replacement surgery I often felt clicking and crunching in my knee joint. The crunching sound (probably bone on bone) was especially common when I was hiking, swimming on my back, going up and down stairs and when I tried to use leg machines in the Fitness Center.

The crunching and clicking was always accompanied by pain.

If you’ve arrived at this blogpost, you might be experiencing the same clicking issue that I faced. It’s normal to wonder whether it’s normal. A few of the questions I had included:

  • Will the clicking affect my new knee joint (bad alignment?)
  • Do I need to inform my doctor
  • Is it normal
  • Do all people experience the clicking or just a few
  • Is it associated with pain or is it painless

In the sections below, I’ll share my experience and some of the answers I discovered regarding “clicking”.

The Click and Crunch

I was hoping that post TKR, the crunching and clicking that I experienced prior to surgery, and especially the associated pain, would no longer be present.

Post TKR I experienced some clicking sensation (nothing that I could hear). The clicking occurred most during the first 4 months post-surgery and it usually happened when I started to move after long periods of time in a sitting position (check out my TKR Timeline article) .

When I got up to walk or when I moved up and down stairs, I could feel a click in my knee joint. After several steps, the clicking usually went away and did not stay for prolonged periods of time.

During my first office visit after knee replacement surgery, the Physician’s Assistant told me that I might experience some clicking in my knee. He said that it is normal and there was no need for concern unless it became regular or if it caused pain.

Both he and my Physical Therapists told me it was not uncommon to experience noises and feelings of “clicking” and “clunking” coming from the knee replacement.

Should You Be Worried If Your Knee Clicks After TKR

The first few times my knee clicked I was apprehensive and a bit worried.  My Physician’s assistant and Physical Therapist assured me that it is not unusual to hear or feel my knee replacement after surgery.

They also assured me that nothing harmful was happening to my knee. They did add that if it occurred on a regular basis and that if it caused me pain, I should have the knee examined by my surgeon and that he could order an X-ray and tests to ensure that nothing is wrong with my knee.

You can rest easy knowing that many TKR patients feel and hear clicks post TKR.

Why Does the Knee Joint Click

According to these physical therapists, clicking usualy occurs in three instances:

  • Shortly after knee replacement and it gradually decreases (the joint an ligaments are adjusting, and swelling is still present)
  • Many years after a knee replacement (maybe it is worn out but this is less common)
  • When pain is accompanied with clicking there could be a problem (important to visit the doctor).

When I asked my Physician’s Assistant and Physical Therapist why my knee clicked, they had several answers.

They reminded me that my knee implant is made of metal and plastic and that the tendons and fluids around my knee can interact with the new joint to cause clicking in my knee.

They also mentioned that prolonged and regular clicking could signal a possible complication that requires medical attention.

Tips To Stop The Knee from Clicking

In my case, as I mentioned above, the more I moved and stretched after I felt the clicking, the sooner it went away. Loosening of the joint and ligaments seem to help reduce the click.

Massaging the area before activity may help (I wrote an article on how to massage the knee). It is also a good idea to stretch a little after sitting for long periods of time before you start walking or going up and down stairs.

When Is It Time To See The Doctor About Clicking?

When the clicking doesn’t go away or the clicking is accompanied by pain or swelling it is time to see your doctor. This seems like common sense, right?

Early on after knee replacement, you’ll be very aware of how your knee is feeling. You’ll monitor the wound, swelling, and pain and you’ll closely follow how it feels to walk (this includes clicking, pain, stiffness).

According to the advice I received from my Physician’s Assistant and Physical Therapists, the clicking in my knee should decrease, not increase as time goes by.

>> 10 Lessons I Learned After Knee Replacement

Conclusion

It is not uncommon to hear or feel clicking in your knee replacement. Hopefully the clicking is not accompanied by pain but there will be some pain after surgery during the healing process.

The clicking should decrease as time goes by. I haven’t had any clicking in my knee since month 4 post TKR surgery.

If you experience prolonged, regular clicking with pain and swelling, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible.

Remember that some clicking is normal, but sustained clicking, especially with pain needs the attention of your doctor. I hope your experience with clicking is like mine which was very minimal and that only occurred during the first 4 months after TKR.

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