Overcoming Knee Pain When Squatting: Tips and TricksBy Nigel Chua
Squats target the quadriceps muscles, hamstrings, and glutes, making them a beneficial compound movement for overall lower body strength and stability. Knowing these benefits, people perform squats for various reasons, including building muscle mass and strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee joint. However, some people experience knee pain while squatting, which significantly affects the way they do this beneficial exercise.
In this article, we'll discuss possible reasons behind experiencing knee pain when squatting, remedies and treatments to alleviate the discomfort, and preventive measures to ensure a pain-free squatting experience.
Possible Reasons Behind Your Knee Pain When Squatting
There are many possible reasons why your knees hurt when you do squats. It may have something to do with the intrinsic strength of your abdominal, gluteal, and leg muscles or your squat position. Other times, experiencing squatting knee pain is an indication of underlying knee problems like a knee injury or degeneration of certain structures like the knee cartilage or joint.
Weak Gluteal Muscles
One of the common culprits behind knee pain when squatting is weak gluteal muscles. The glutes play a pivotal role in stabilising the pelvis and controlling the movement of the hips and knees during a squat. When the glute muscles are underdeveloped, it can lead to poor hip and knee alignment, resulting in excessive stress on the knee joints. This can trigger pain and discomfort, especially when performing compound movements like squats.
Weak Abdominal Muscles
Weak abdominal muscles can also contribute to knee pain when squatting. The core muscles, including the abdominals and obliques, play a crucial role in maintaining proper posture and spinal alignment during squats. When these muscles are weak, it can lead to excessive forward lean or arching of the lower back, placing undue pressure on the knees.
Poor Squatting Techniques
Improper squatting techniques can significantly contribute to knee pain. Common mistakes such as allowing the knees to cave inwards, shifting the weight onto the toes, or failing to maintain a neutral spine can place excessive stress on the knee joints, leading to discomfort and potential injury.
It's crucial to focus on mastering the proper form when squatting, which includes maintaining a hip-width stance, tracking the knees in line with the toes, and engaging the core and glutes throughout the movement. Seeking guidance from a certified fitness trainer or physical therapist can also be beneficial in refining your squatting technique and minimising the risk of knee pain.
Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, can be a significant factor contributing to knee pain during squats, particularly in individuals over the age of 50. When performing squats, the added pressure on the affected knee joint can exacerbate the discomfort caused by this type of knee arthritis.
This condition involves the breakdown of the protective cartilage within the knee joint, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Several contributory factors could lead to osteoarthritis, including inflammation and innate immunity and biomechanical factors like weakness of the knee and hip muscles, problems in proprioceptive and postural control (balance), and obesity.
Patellar Tendon Tear
A patellar tendon tear is a serious injury to the knee that involves the partial or complete rupture of the connective tissue connecting the bottom of the kneecap to the shinbone. It's often caused by strong forces, falls, jumping, and chronic overuse.
Symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, difficulty walking, instability, and a snapping sound in the knee. The initial pain is described as aching and burning, and it can make it difficult to walk and participate in daily activities.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
Patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as runner's knee, is characterised by pain and inflammation around the patella (kneecap) during activities that involve knee bending, such as squats. This syndrome can be attributed to various factors, including muscle imbalances, overuse, or abnormal tracking of the patella within the knee joint. Individuals with patellofemoral syndrome may experience aches and discomfort when performing squats, making it essential to address the underlying issues.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome
Iliotibial Band (IT Band) Syndrome is a common overuse injury causing pain on the outside of the knee, commonly seen in runners and cyclists. The initial pain is described as aching and burning. Symptoms include pain and clicking on the outside of the knee, often accompanied by swelling. The syndrome happens when the ligament becomes inflamed and swollen, leading to pain and discomfort, especially during physical activities like running and cycling.
A meniscus tear, which involves cartilage tear and damage in the knee joint, can lead to pain, swelling, and limited range of motion, especially during weight-bearing activities like squats. The torn meniscus can impede smooth knee movement and cause discomfort, particularly when bending the knees deeply in a squatting position. Physiotherapy such as that offered by Phoenix Rehab can help reduce pain in this condition. Click here to learn more about this procedure.
Remedies and Treatments to Reduce Knee Pain When Squatting
Knee pain when squatting indeed affects the quality of life of those who feel pain when squatting. It's thus important to know ways to relieve pain for those who experience knee pain while squatting, such as these home remedies and medical treatments:
Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help alleviate knee pain and reduce inflammation, making it more manageable to perform squats. These medications can be particularly beneficial for individuals experiencing mild to moderate discomfort during squats, enabling them to engage in their workout routines with greater ease.
The RICE method, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation, is a widely recommended approach for relieving pain and swelling of the knees, including discomfort experienced during squats. When implemented promptly following a squatting session, the RICE method can help alleviate acute pain, reduce inflammation, and promote the healing of any minor tissue damage within the knee joint.
Applying a cold compress or ice pack to the affected knee, wrapping it with a compression bandage, and keeping the leg elevated can aid in minimising post-squat discomfort and facilitating the recovery process.
Orthotic devices such as knee sleeves or braces can provide additional support and stability to the knee joint, which can be beneficial for individuals experiencing recurring knee pain during squats. Knee sleeves are designed to offer compression and warmth to the knee, potentially reducing discomfort and enhancing proprioception during squatting movements.
Knee braces can also provide targeted support to specific areas of the knee, such as the patella (knee cap) or ligaments, offering a sense of security and minimising the risk of aggravating knee pain during squats.
Engaging in targeted physical therapy sessions under the guidance of a qualified physiotherapist or rehabilitation specialist can be instrumental in addressing knee pain when squatting. A customised physical therapy programme can encompass a range of interventions, including strengthening exercises, flexibility training, manual therapy techniques, and neuromuscular re-education to improve knee function and mitigate discomfort during squats.
Incorporating physiotherapy interventions such as ultrasound therapy, electrical stimulation, or therapeutic exercises into your knee pain management plan can offer targeted relief and promote healing, particularly if the discomfort stems from specific musculoskeletal issues.
Ultrasound therapy can help reduce inflammation and enhance tissue repair within the knee joint, while electrical stimulation can aid in pain modulation and muscle strengthening. Performing prescribed therapeutic exercises as part of a comprehensive physiotherapy programme can also help restore optimal knee function and alleviate discomfort during squatting movements.
Phoenix Rehab offers a state-of-the-art, multidisciplinary approach to knee pain relief, performed by qualified healthcare providers with a lot of experience in their profession. One of the services that we offer is knee physiotherapy in Singapore, which may be recommended depending on your condition.
In cases where conservative treatments fail to provide adequate relief from chronic knee pain when squatting, surgical intervention may be considered a viable option, especially for individuals with severe structural issues or persistent symptoms. Surgical procedures such as arthroscopic knee surgery, meniscus repair, or knee replacement surgery may be recommended based on the specific underlying conditions contributing to knee pain.
How to Prevent Knee Pain When Squatting
Upon treatment of the pain sensation you experience during squatting, it's a must to prevent knee pain from going back by observing the following practices:
Too much weight can exert additional stress on the knee joints during weight-bearing activities like squats, potentially exacerbating knee pain and discomfort. Implementing a comprehensive approach to body weight management, including a balanced diet and regular physical activity, can help reduce the load on the knees and alleviate the strain experienced during squats.
Observe Proper Squatting Techniques
Mastering proper squatting techniques is paramount for preventing knee pain and injury during squats. Focusing on maintaining a neutral spine, tracking the knees in line with the toes, and distributing the weight evenly through the feet can help minimise the stress on the knee joints and promote optimal biomechanics.
Perform Exercises That Enhance Ankle Flexibility
Limited ankle flexibility can lead to compensatory movements and alignment issues during squats, increasing the likelihood of knee pain. Incorporating exercises that target ankle mobility, such as calf stretches, ankle dorsiflexion drills, and mobility exercises using a foam roller or lacrosse ball, can help improve ankle flexibility and ensure that the ankles move freely and comfortably during squats, thereby minimising the impact on the knees.
Do Exercises That Improve Hip Strength
Strong and stable hips are instrumental in supporting the lower body during squats and reducing the load on the knees. Incorporating hip-strengthening exercises such as hip thrusts, lateral band walks, and single-leg glute bridges into your workout routine can help fortify the muscles surrounding the hip joint, enhancing stability and reducing the reliance on the knees during squatting movements.
Knee pain when squatting can be a debilitating issue that hinders your fitness pursuits and daily activities. Whether it involves addressing muscular imbalances, seeking professional guidance, or making lifestyle modifications, taking proactive steps to mitigate knee pain can empower you to pursue your fitness goals with confidence and comfort. With the right support and strategies in place, you can embrace pain-free squatting and unleash your full potential in your fitness pursuits.