If your knees often make popping or cracking noises as you move around, you may be at an increased risk of developing knee osteoarthritis, a new study suggests.

Data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative, a multi-centre U.S. observational study of nearly 3,500 participants, indicates that those who hear grating, cracking or popping sounds in and around the knee joints may be more likely to suffer from knee osteoarthritis.

The condition can cause a lot of damage to the knee joints, making them stiff and painful.

The study involved people who were at a high risk of developing osteoarthritis. Among those who developed the condition within a year, more than 75 per cent had signs of osteoarthritis on radiographic images but no frequent knee pain at the start of the study.

Researchers say the study’s findings may help identify people who are at risk for knee osteoarthritis, and help them get an earlier diagnosis and treatment.

"Many people who have signs of osteoarthritis on X-rays do not necessarily complain of pain, and there are no known strategies for preventing the development of pain in this group of people," Dr. Grace Lo, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said in a news release.

She said future studies “hold the promise of identifying interventions that can prevent knee pain."