lifestyle

Medically Reviewed

Why do my knees crack? Here are some supplements to support joint health

a photo of someone's knees sitting down on a rock in nature

Cracking knees can sound concerning, but are they cause for alarm? Explore the cause of cracking knees and habits & supplements that help support joint health.

Have you ever squatted down and heard your knees reply back with a couple of interesting sounds? Cracking noises coming from knees is a fairly common occurrence, but you might wonder if there’s anything that can soothe that sound. Do vitamins help reduce the noise knees make? Let’s explore some supplement options.

Why does your knee crack?

First, it’s important to realize that cracking or popping sounds originating from the knee joints don’t necessarily imply injury or trauma to the knee. Knee joints are some of the most complex joints of the body, with many muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones all coming together. They also carry an enormous burden; as our “shock absorber,” knees take the impact of all of our daily activities.

There may be multiple reasons for hearing a cracking or popping sound coming from your knees. It may be due to tight muscles, age-related cartilage issues, or brought on by a specific type of exercise or movement. The physiology of what makes the sound can be attributed to carbon dioxide build-up in the joint fluid, which is known as the synovial fluid. Here, the synovial fluid acts as a lubricant and nutrient source for the connective tissue of the joint.

One real time visualization of joint cracking used an MRI to reveal that the sounds produced are not made by bubble collapse, as was once thought, but by cavity formation. Despite myths suggesting the contrary, there’s no evidence to support claims that cracking your joints (like knuckles) can lead to long-term problems.

What does it mean to have cracking knees?

Some people associate cracking knees with aging but joints, particularly knees, can make cracking or popping sounds at any age. Cracking sounds are also not a sure sign of injury or damage. The main thing to look out for is pain and/or swelling. If you experience either of those issues with your knee joints, you should talk to your doctor about the next steps for proper treatment.

To keep knees healthy, it’s important to exercise regularly (including a good warm-up to help prevent injury), maintain a healthy weight, and wear shoes that provide good support. Since oxidative stress can also damage joints, leading to age related joint issues, taking steps to add in foods rich in antioxidants and reducing oxidation can be beneficial. These steps may include quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, and finding ways to minimize stress.

Can vitamins and minerals help with cracking knees?

It’s important to understand that there are no specific vitamins or dietary supplements which have been studied for their role in preventing or addressing cracking joints. However, if you’d like to prioritize joint health, certain supplements are associated with supporting joint health. So, while there’s no specific supplement for cracking knees, these may be helpful in providing the nutrition and support that joints, including your knees, need.

Vitamins for bone and joint support

Let’s explore some of the vitamins and other supplements that can be beneficial in supporting bone and joint health.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is widely known to support bone health and calcium absorption, which can help make bones, muscles, and other connective tissue stronger. You can maintain healthy levels of vitamin D by making sure you receive daily sun exposure outdoors without sunscreen for around 15-20 minutes per day. Care/of’s Sunny D3 supplement can also help you maintain proper levels.

Eggshell Membrane

Eggshell membrane is a vegetarian supplement that can support joint health. While many collagen supplements are derived from bone of animals like cows, eggshell membrane has shown promising results in promoting joint flexibility and healthy cartilage. One study found patients who took 500 mg of natural eggshell membrane reported improvedjoint comfort after just seven days of use. Another study of postmenopausal women found beneficial effects on joint pain and stiffness caused by exercise, as well as a boost in cartilage health. Care/of’s Vegetarian Collagen supplement is made from sustainably sourced eggshells and promotes joint comfort within 7-10 days.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Research has shown a link between the amount of omega-3 fatty acid in the synovial fluid within the joints of healthy people and those with joint issues, which demonstrates the importance of these fatty acids to joint health. It’s helpful to understand the three different types of omega-3s: alpha linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Fish oil for instance, which contains both EPA and DHA fatty, shows promising results with doses between 1000-2000 mg in supporting joint health. This study suggests that omega 3s may also help with calcium absorption which can help promote healthy bones and bone mineral density. Fish oil, like Care/of’s variety, which is sourced from wild caught salmon, can also help support cartilage health, heart, cognitive, and eye health.

Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice that is often found in Indian dishes like curry. It can be added to meals, although supplements like Care/of’s Turmeric, which uses the full spectrum of the plant root, are also available. Turmeric contains curcumin, which there is evidence to support its benefit in protecting human joint cells known as chondrocytes. It also contains properties that may have antioxidant-like benefits.

Collagen Hydrolysate

Collagen hydrolysate is collagen that has been broken down into much more absorbable forms for the body. Since bones, connective tissue and cartilage all need collagen, but production slows down as we age, supplementing with collagen hydrolysate can provide needed support. In one study, participants who consumed 10 g of collagen hydrolysate for six months reported an improvement in the comfort of their knee joints.

Glucosamine

Glucosamine is a supplement typically made from shellfish (although some plant-based versions are now made through fermentation) that may support collagen and joint health. It’s particularly popular for use by athletes involved in high-impact sports, like running, but there may be some potential side effects, such as digestive discomfort. Doses that have been studied typically top out at about 3000 mg.

MSM

Methylsulfonylmethane is a chemical with the shortened name MSM, and it may be helpful in reducing joint discomfort caused by exercise. One study showed a reduction in pain, while another provided evidence of reduced production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, which contributes to damaging oxidation.

Chondroitin

You’re probably familiar with the pairing of glucosamine and chondroitin in joint supplements. The combination shows evidence that, taken together, the supplements can support joint health – particularly, as one study noted, in women who circuit train and regularly perform resistance exercises. The studied dose for chondroitin, which is a naturally occurring substance found in the body, is 1200 mg per day.

Boswellia

Boswellia is actually the plant that frankincense is made from, and the extract is a common herbal therapy, particularly in Eastern medicine. It’s been shown to promote joint comfort. There’s evidence that Boswellia also helps to manage oxidative stress. In one study, participants experienced greater joint flexibility when taking a Boswellia extract supplement for eight weeks.

Other remedies for cracking knee and overall joint health

While supplements may help to support joint health, there are other lifestyle habits that can be just as important to maintaining healthy knees. These include:

  • Consistent, restful sleep for 7-9 hours each night
  • Proper stretching and warming up before exercise
  • Maintaining a regular fitness routine that includes cardio, flexibility training, and resistance exercises (this should also include exercises that stretch and strengthen your quads)
  • Drinking 8-10 eight ounce glasses of water daily
  • Eating a healthy diet packed with nutrient-dense whole foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains

Final takeaways

Joints that make noise, like cracking knees, don’t necessarily imply the presence of damage or injury in the area. Instead, cracking joints can just be a physiological occurrence that is nothing to worry about. However if pain is involved, it’s best to get this checked out by your healthcare provider. Overall, you can support joints like your knees by following basic wellness habits, like eating a nutrition-rich diet and not smoking. There are a wide array of supplements that can help to support the health of bones, joints, and cartilage. Before beginning any new supplement, it’s always best to discuss with your doctor beforehand.

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