What can cause a grinding noise in the knee but no pain, and is this something to be concerned about?

“Painless noise in the knee, as well as other joints, can be safely ignored,” says Dr. Mark Galland, orthopedic surgeon, sports medicine specialist and physician at Orthopaedic Specialists of North Carolina.

“Noises in the knee are fairly common and do not necessarily signify anything significant, although the most common diagnosis associated with a noisy knee is arthritis or pre-arthritis under the knee cap.”

Another Cause of Grinding Sound

“The second most common cause is a painless bursitis behind the knee cap,” says Dr. Galland.

“In arthritic knees, there may be a sound associated when there is bone-on-bone contact; however, the noise associated with this is usually more subtle than the more dramatic noise some patients experience from the benign causes mentioned above.”

Can this morph into a more serious problem and if so, why?

“Surprisingly, a grinding noise in the knee is almost always benign, but any audible symptom, especially if accompanied by pain, should be checked out by a primary care provider or an orthopedist just as a precaution.”

Dr. Galland has authored many book chapters and papers in sports medicine. His advice and consultation have been sought by world-class athletes in track and field and Major League Baseball.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 
­Top image: ©Lorra Garrick