Many individuals squat on a daily basis as part of their exercise or in the course of other activities. No matter what anyone tells you, there should be no knee pain when squatting correctly
Squatting incorrectly or with a knee problem or arthritis can, however, result in knee pain. When performing a squat, knee discomfort is frequently caused by muscular imbalances or restricted mobility. That’s because your joints are affected by the movement in your joints directly above and below them.
After all, your knee joint is positioned between your hip and ankle joints, so any problems with your feet, ankles, hips or glutes can lead to knee problems.
In this article, we will discuss the causes of knee pain from squatting, how to treat it, and how to prevent knee pain in the future by adopting five form adjustments and mobility drills you can do the next time you go deep into a squat.
A few reasons why a person might experience knee pain while squatting include:
People who don’t squat correctly may develop knee discomfort. Pressure on the knees rather than the thigh muscles and glutes can occur if this movement is done incorrectly.
If you’re still in pain after altering your squatting technique, see your doctor to look for any underlying knee problems.
Sprain in the knee
A sprain occurs when the knee is twisted awkwardly while squatting or receiving a blow to the knee.
Sprains hurt, causing swelling and discomfort. These injuries make it difficult to squat and perform other knee-related activities. A sprained knee may make it super hard for a person to walk or put any weight on the joint.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome
Patellofemoral pain syndrome causes discomfort in the front of the knee and around the kneecap while squatting.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome “can” affect everyone, but it’s sometimes known as “runner’s knee” or “jumper’s knee.” Because it frequently affects people who participate in a lot of sports. Any injury to the knee might produce joint pain.
The tendons connect the muscles to the bones. Tendonitis of the knee can develop as a result of straining or overusing the tendons around the knee, which causes them to swell.
Tendonitis is more probable as a consequence of repetitive activities, especially if they put a lot of strain on the tendon. People frequently perform repetitive motions while playing sports or performing manual labor work.
Arthritis of the knee
Arthritis causes the joints to become inflamed and painful. Arthritis can affect almost any of the joints in the body, including the knee.
The elastic, tough tissue that surrounds the joints and allows them to glide smoothly is known as cartilage. If this cartilage degrades, osteoarthritis develops.
Knee osteoarthritis can cause discomfort and swelling in the knee joint, making it feel rigid.
Osteoarthritis is most prevalent in those over the age of 65.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects various types of joints throughout the body. The immune system goes after healthy tissue surrounding the joints, causing discomfort, swelling, and stiffness.
Post-traumatic arthritis is an inflammation of the joints or ligaments following a knee injury. Infectious arthritis of the knee can occur if an infection spreads to it.
Tendon or cartilage tears
The cartilage in the knee may tear as a result of a severe injury or strain. After a cartilage break, individuals may require the use of a knee brace during physical activity.
A patellar tendon rupture is an injury to the knee’s tendon that can be caused by a fall, jumping, or a damaged tendon.
Symptoms of a patella tendon tear include:
- difficulty walking
- buckling of the knee
- a moving kneecap
- pain and tenderness
- an indentation under the kneecap
The type of treatment you receive will be determined by the amount of tendon damage. Physiotherapy may sometimes suffice, but surgery is usually required.
Iliotibial band syndrome
The IT band, or iliotibial band, is a thick band of tissue that runs along the length of the upper leg from hip to knee. The IT band shifts to help support a bent knee when a person bends their leg.
If the IT band becomes inflamed, it will rub against the outside of the knee and cause discomfort, especially during activities that use the joint, such as squatting. Overuse injuries to the IT band are frequent among runners. Runners who do not stretch adequately before exercising have an increased likelihood of suffering from this condition.
Read on to learn how to prevent and treat knee pain while squatting, as well as when it’s time to visit a doctor.
If you’ve had a traumatic accident to your knee, make an appointment with your doctor to exclude fractured bone or other critical conditions.
If you’re just having some general pain when you squat, try treating it at home.
Change your activity
Take a look at how you move throughout the day. You may need to modify your workout or daily routine for a while if you’re in pain.
Limiting or stopping activities that are causing you pain is a good idea. Consider switching to cross-training that isn’t as rigorous on the joints if you don’t want to stop all physical activity.
Low-impact options include:
- aqua aerobics
- aqua jogging
The R.I.C.E. method involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation:
- Rest – Stop activities that cause discomfort in your knee. You should also avoid situations where you may have to put weight on your hurt knee frequently.
- Ice – Apply cold packs to your knee for 20 minutes at a time, several times throughout the day to relieve pain. Never put ice on your skin directly; instead, use a light towel or blanket to cover your ice pack.
- Compress – Apply a compression wrap to prevent swelling. At most pharmacies, elastic bandages are available. Avoid wrapping your knee excessively tight. The ideal degree of tightness is light yet comfortable. Make sure there’s an opening above your kneecap.
- Elevate your knee as often as possible. Prop your knee up on cushions to raise it higher than your heart while you’re resting.
If you think your pain is caused by a sprain or strain, R.I.C.E. is a good approach to go about it. However, if your discomfort is due to arthritis or joint stiffness, applying heat to the knee might provide relief.
Heat has the ability to increase blood and oxygen flow to the damaged tissue, but it may also cause edema and inflammation.
You may use a store-bought heating pad for comfort, or make your own with simple items like rice in a sock or wet towels in a zip-top bag.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines might assist with your pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are excellent choices because they both relieve discomfort and inflammation. You may be familiar with these medications by their brand names Advil and Motrin, as well as naproxen (Aleve).
There are a few different types of OTC pain-relieving products available, including gels and creams. For example, capsaicin is a substitute for those who can’t take NSAIDs. It’s a chemical found in hot chili peppers that may be used as often as 3 to 4 times every day for several weeks.
A massage with a qualified practitioner can help reduce tension in the muscles that surround your joints, giving you comfort and preventing future injury.
Sports massage is most commonly used for muscular problems resulting from sports or hard activity. The technique is comparable to Swedish massage, but it focuses specifically on muscles that are experiencing pain.
Ask your doctor for a recommendation for a massage therapist in your region, and verify with your insurance provider before going to see if you have any coverage.
Form Adjustments And Mobility Drills
1. Grip With Your Feet
Strong, active feet offer a solid foundation of support and distribute forces evenly throughout your joints. If you don’t know how to use your feet to actively engage with the ground while squatting, other joints — particularly your knees — must bear a greater burden.
Consider how you would grab a hefty dumbbell with your hands: You wrap your hands around the handle and squeeze with all of your might. When you squat, your feet should be doing something similar.
Focus on grabbing the ground with your toes and pushing the floor away with your feet. If you’re having trouble getting your feet to work, try squatting in socks so you can feel more connected to the ground.
Imagine you’re straddling a wide fissure in the ground. Your goal as you squat is to try to spread the crack with your feet.
Another thing to keep an eye on is your heel(s) coming off the floor. While squatting or lunging, make sure the ball of your foot, its outside edge, and your heel are all in constant touch with the ground.
“Keeping the heel ‘glued’ to the ground can prevent knee pain from squatting,” says Michelle Kania, CSCS, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of One Day Better Training.
2. Work on Your Ankle Mobility
If your ankles lack mobility, your knees will pick up the slack. One of the most underappreciated squat-related problems is poor ankle mobility.
According to a March 2015 research in the Journal of Human Kinetics, ankle dorsiflexion (bringing your toes toward your shins) is important for the depth of your squat, also known as how low you can go. This means if your ankles aren’t flexible enough, you’ll have a hard time squatting down to your knees.
You may enhance your ankle mobility by including some ankle exercises during your warm-up. The half-kneeling kettlebell ankle drill on the left employs the weight of the kettlebell to gently push your knee forward over your big toe. Ensure that your heel stays on the floor throughout the movement.
Also, having tight calves might make it more difficult for your knee to move past your toes without your heel popping up off the ground.
To assist loosen overly tight calf muscles, spend a few moments at the start of each workout foam rolling your calves.
3. Lead With Your Hips and Knees
One of the biggest mistakes that contributes to knee pain when squatting is starting the exercise from your ankles. When you bend at your ankles first, your knees automatically shoot out over your toes without your hips sh0oting behind as a counterbalance. This causes your knees to absorb nearly the entire load as you squat.
To avoid this problem, begin each rep by moving your hips and knees. Think about squatting both back and down so your hips take on their fair share of the load. This way you’ll also be able to use your glutes and core to support yourself throughout the movement.
It might also be helpful to do box squats (see below) to help you understand how far back your hips should go.
3. Lead With Your Hips and Knees
One of the most common mistakes that lead to knee pain when squatting is beginning the exercise at your ankles. When your knees shoot out over your toes before you bend at your ankles, they do so without your hips shooting back as a counterweight. Now, this leads to your knees absorbing nearly the entire load as you squat.
To avoid this issue, begin each rep with a hip and knee movement. Consider squatting both back and down to put your hips in their fair share of the workload. You will be more stable when you use the glutes and core to help you support yourself throughout the procedure.
It can also be beneficial to perform box squats (see below) to see how far back your hips should go.
4. Strengthen Your Glutes
Sometimes, to get rid of squatting-induced knee pain, you must concentrate on your hips and glutes. Your side glutes, in particular, help to support your knee joint. As a result, any weaknesses in this area might lead to an issue.
However, most lower-body workouts ignore the side glutes (gluteus medius and minimus). To correct this, do side-to-side exercises such as lateral band walks, clamshells, and side squats.
5. Choose a Different Squat Variation
Consider a different squat variation if you’re having difficulty with knee discomfort while performing squats (think: sumo squats, double kettlebell squats, barbell front and back squats, air squats, goblet squats ).
Front-loaded squats put a greater strain on your quadriceps and knees, but they also use a rather upright posture that some people find more comfortable. Backloaded squats take some of the strain off of your knees, but you must hinge more at the hips and extend your knees farther over your toes.
The goal here is to find out what works best for you. In the end, everyone is unique in their own way. So experiment with different options and stick to ones that feel most natural on your knees. You may be able to add more squat variations as your leg strength and mobility improve over time.
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.