Why Do My Knees Crack And Which Supplements Can Help?

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    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 do your knees crack?

    First, it’s important to realize that cracking or popping sounds originating from the knee joints don’t necessarily imply issues with the knee. 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 changes, or brought on by a specific type of exercise or movement.

    The physiology of what makes the cracking 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. Despite many myths, there’s no evidence to support claims that cracking your joints (like knuckles) can lead to long-term problems.

    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 negatively affect joints, taking steps to add in foods rich in antioxidants and managing oxidation can be beneficial. These steps may also 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, there are some that may be helpful in providing the nutrition and support that joints, including your knees, need.

    17 vitamins for bone and joint support

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

    1. 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 vitamin D3 supplement can also help you maintain proper levels.

    2. Eggshell Membrane

    Eggshell membrane is a vegetarian supplement that can support joint health. While many collagen supplements are derived from the 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 improved joint 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.

    3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    Research has shown a link between the amount of omega-3 fatty acids 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 acids, 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. Omega 3 fatty acids cannot be made in the body so they must be obtained from the diet or supplementation. Fish oil, like Care/of’s fish oil supplement, which is sourced from wild-caught small fish that are high in nutrients, heart, cognitive, and eye health. Research also shows the potential for fish oil to support cartilage health at both molecular and genetic levels.

    4. 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 supplement, which uses the full spectrum of the plant root, are also available. Turmeric contains curcumin, and there is evidence to support its benefit in promoting healthy human joint cells, known as chondrocytes. It also contains properties that may have antioxidant-like benefits.

    5. Collagen Hydrolysate

    Collagen hydrolysate is collagen that has been broken down into much more absorbable forms for the body. Bones, connective tissue, and cartilage all need collagen, but collagen production in our bodies slows down as we age. That’s why 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.

    6. 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.

    7. MSM

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

    8. Chondroitin

    You’re probably familiar with the pairing of glucosamine and chondroitin in joint supplements. The combination shows evidence that, when 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.

    9. 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.

    10. Vitamin C

    Vitamin C is widely known for its antioxidant properties that help combat oxidative stress and support immune health. It also plays a major role in collagen production, which is pivotal for joint health and maintaining the suppleness of our skin.

    Additionally, vitamin C is a scavenger of free radicals, offering an added layer of protection against cellular damage. However, while vitamin C offers numerous benefits, you shouldn’t take vitamin C with the sole expectation of resolving cracking knees, as there are no concrete studies to support any benefit.

    11. Vitamin E

    Like vitamin C, vitamin E is also an antioxidant with the ability to manage oxidative stress. But its relevance to bone health is particularly intriguing. Some sources suggest that vitamin E may play a role in maintaining healthy bone mineral density. It possesses bone-protective properties that likely stem from its capability to minimize oxidative stress.

    12. Vitamin K

    Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s important for bone health and proper circulation. It’s also necessary for proper blood coagulation, ensuring that our blood clots efficiently when necessary.

    Vitamin K has been found to be fundamental in the functioning of bone-related proteins. It also plays a role in the genetic transcription of osteoblasts (cells that contribute to forming new bones) and regulating the process of bone resorption.

    13. Calcium

    It’s no surprise that calcium is one of the most recognized minerals for bone health. Our bones serve not just as a structural framework for our bodies but also as a critical storage site for calcium. Proper dietary calcium intake is important for the formation of bones during our developmental years, as well as for their metabolism as we age.

    Because of calcium’s role in the growth and maintenance of bone health, the amount we need can vary throughout different stages of our lives. Care/of’s Calcium supplement is a great option for supporting bone health, as it also includes vitamin D and K2!

    14. Magnesium

    Magnesium is another important mineral that serves hundreds of processes in the body, including the maintenance of healthy bones. Studies show that magnesium can support healthy bone mineral density and bone formation, ensuring our bones remain strong. Care/of’s magnesium supplement contains 200 mg of magnesium that is naturally and sustainably derived from Irish seawater.

    15. Hyaluronic Acid

    Hyaluronic acid is a common component of many skincare products due to its benefits in supporting skin health and hydration. Now it’s gaining attention for its potential role in bone health. Hyaluronic acid is considered a type of glycosaminoglycan, which are molecules that serve as a key component of the bone matrix. Animal studies show the potential for hyaluronic acid to support osteoblasts, the cells vital for bone formation and metabolism. Human studies are needed in order to validate these findings.

    16. Bromelain

    Bromelain is often used as a digestive enzyme that helps break down proteins. It has also been used to help promote healthy wound healing. Meanwhile, research has suggested that bromelain possesses chondroprotective properties. Chondrocytes are the cells found in cartilage tissue that are key players in maintaining joint health, as these cells are responsible for collagen production and bone formation. With bromelain potentially supporting these vital cells, it becomes an intriguing option for those seeking natural ways to keep joints healthy.

    17. Selenium

    Selenium is a mineral that possesses antioxidant-like properties. It’s essential for supporting thyroid function and the production of glutathione. Selenium has also been found to play a role in maintaining healthy cartilage, potentially helping to promote and maintain healthy joints.

    Animal studies have noticed a correlation between deficient selenium levels and its negative effects on bone health, suggesting that this mineral may have a significant effect on preserving skeletal integrity. Of course, more research on humans is needed to fully understand this association.

    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 optimal health including healthy joints like the 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 antioxidant-rich whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

    The bottom line

    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 it checked out by your healthcare provider.

    Overall, you can support joints like your knees by following basic wellness habits, like eating a nutrient-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 it with your doctor.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Jordana Tobelem, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Jordana Tobelem is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys helping others become the best versions of themselves through proper nutrition education. Jordana is passionate about promoting lifestyle changes through nutrition, physical activity, and behavior to create a superior quality of life. She uses her experience in the clinical field of dietetics to provide consulting services to an array of healthcare brands and companies. Jordana loves finding the most current research in nutrition to create meaningful content to share with her clients. Jordana has been a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics since 2018 and also holds certifications in both Personal Training and Health Coaching.