Creaky knees: is there a reason for concern? A qualitative study of the perspectives of people with knee crepitus

Elise E. Drum, Alexandre Kovats, Matthew D. Jones, Sarah Dennis, Justine Naylor, Kathryn Mills, Jeanette M. Thom*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Objective: Crepitus is a feature of osteoarthritis that may affect one's participation in exercise. An informed understanding is required of the perceptions that people have of their knee crepitus and how it affects their exercise behaviours. This study aims to investigate the role that crepitus may play in beliefs about exercise and knee health. Methods: Focus group and individual interviews were conducted online with participants who had knee crepitus. The transcripts were thematically analysed through an inductive approach. Results: Five main themes were identified from 24 participants: (1) individual variation of, (2) occurrence of, (3) meaning of knee crepitus, (4) attitudes and exercise behaviours regarding crepitus, and (5) knowledge deficits and needs concerning crepitus during exercise. The variety of crepitus sounds described occurred with a range of exercises or after inactivity. For those already with osteoarthritis or other symptoms, crepitus was of less concern than symptoms such as pain. Most participants had not ceased exercise but may have modified movement due to crepitus and associated symptoms; some had increased intentional strength training to try alleviating it. Participants agreed that more understanding about the processes causing crepitus and what exercise was safe for knee health would be beneficial. Conclusion: Crepitus does not appear to be a major cause of concern for people who experience it. However, it is a factor that influences exercise behaviours as is pain. If health professionals could guide people with concerns about their crepitus, they may be more confident in exercising to benefit their joint health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1114-1124
Number of pages11
JournalMusculoskeletal Care
Issue number4
Early online date21 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2023. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • beliefs
  • crepitus
  • exercise
  • knee osteoarthritis
  • qualitative


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