Ever hear or feel a popping or grinding in your knees? It’s called crepitus, and it may mean that your knees are more vulnerable to arthritis.

“For a long time, doctors have told patients not to worry about crepitus if it doesn’t hurt,” says Grace Lo, an assistant professor at the Baylor College of Medicine. “We wanted to find out if that was good advice.

Lo and her colleagues studied nearly 3,500 adults who were at risk for osteoarthritis based on their age, weight, and other risk factors. Participants were asked about pain and popping or grinding sounds in their knees when they entered the study.

“The more often people complained of having crepitus, the more likely they were to develop arthritis” over the next four years, says Lo.

If you’ve got noisy knees, Lo recommends talking to your doctor. “Patients often feel like they have other medical conditions that warrant more attention, but now we have evidence that those sounds matter. Crepitus is a good way to start a conversation about arthritis with your doctor.”

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