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Clicking knees may be a sign of osteoarthritis

Tuesday 9th May 2017
Radiographers may need to ask patients about the noises their joints make as well as the pain they experience ahead of osteoarthritis X-rays. Image: m-gucci via iStock
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Clicking or popping noises in the knees may be a sign that a person is developing osteoarthritis and could be at greater risk of fractures, bone breaks and joint pain in the future, according to a new study.

Research carried out by doctors at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas drew on data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative to reach this conclusion and hopes to encourage individuals who notice their knees clicking more often to seek a professional diagnosis for the condition. This will mean they can begin accessing the right treatment for their needs as soon as possible.

Using data relating to almost 3,500 people, the researchers found that people who hear their knees making clicking, cracking, grating or popping sounds may be more likely to develop osteoarthritis in their knees in the future.

Of the participants who developed the condition within 12 months, more than 75 per cent had been pain-free at the start of the study. However, they may have noticed their knees getting noisier and not disclosed this information to their radiographer as they weren't aware this could be a potential sign of the condition's onset.

Many of those who experienced no pain were showing early signs of osteoarthritis on X-rays, demonstrating that it is not just pain but also sound that needs to be considered with regard to recognising the onset of the condition.

Lead study author Dr Grace Lo commented: "This study suggests that if people have noisy knees, they are at higher risk for developing pain within the next year compared with the people who do not have noisy knees.

"Future studies that target people who have X-ray signs of osteoarthritis and who do not complain of pain but do report noisy knees hold the promise of identifying interventions that can prevent knee pain."

It is also hoped that the study's findings will lead to increased awareness of the signs of osteoarthritis among patients themselves, as well as earlier diagnosis.

Written by Megan Smith

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