Squatting is part of many workout routines and everyday life. But while it’s usually a painless activity, there are some instances where it can cause pain around the knee joint. So, if you have knee pain when squatting, here are some potential causes and fixes.
What could be causing knee pain when you squat
Overuse injury. Patellar tendonitis (AKA Jumper’s Knee) and Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) are common causes of knee pain. Too much strain on these tendons causes micro-tears to develop, leading to irritation, swelling, popping sounds, and pain. ITBS pain will be localised to the outside of the knee and may radiate into the hip. Patellar pain will usually be at the front of the knee. In most cases, your knee will just ache with movement and pressure, especially when you squat, lunge, or run up or down the stairs. In more severe cases, it may also hurt when you’re resting.
Acute injury. Tendon tears and ligament sprains can also make it painful to squat. Even when these injuries are mild, they can cause discomfort when you move or put pressure on the leg, especially if you do so for an extended period. Depending on the tissue affected, you’ll get pain in different areas of the knee. For example, an MCL sprain will affect the inner side of the knee and feel worse during a sumo squat. When they’re severe, you likely won’t be able to squat at all due to intense pain, stiffness, and instability.
A medical condition. In the early stages of knee arthritis, symptoms like pain and swelling come and go. Generally, they’ll be at their worst after a long period of rest or strenuous activity.
Recurring injury. Whether you had tendonitis, a sprain, or a cartilage tear, not treating the injury correctly the first time around can make it act up again.
Squatting wrong. It may also be the case that your squatting form is incorrect. A good squat distributes pressure into the thighs and glutes. A bad squat, meanwhile, puts pressure on the knees.
How to fix knee pain when squatting
- Stand in front of a mirror to keep an eye on your form
- Place your feet shoulder-width apart
- Stretch your arms out in front of you to stay balanced throughout the squat
- Make sure your knees, hips, and toes all point forward
- Squat down slowly as though you’re going to sit in a chair
- Throughout the squat, keep your back in a neutral position, your thighs parallel to the floor, and your heels firmly planted on the ground.
- Keep your glutes above knee level. You should only squat as far as is comfortable
- Return to a standing position by pushing into your heels and keeping the buttocks tight
Check your other activities
There is absolutely such a thing as too much exercise. Pushing your body too hard, too fast, and too long can overwhelm the muscles, leading to increased pressure on tendons, ligaments and cartilage.
So, if you’re feeling knee pain when squatting, consider whether you’ve recently increased your activity level. Did you add more weight to your deadlift? Are you running more Ks in the mornings? Did you start an exercise program that’s not agreeing with you? If so, try taking it down a notch or two, add more rest days, and see how your knees feel.
Get a knee brace
GenuTrain Knee Brace
Medical-grade knee braces are a great way to combat pain and make exercising easier on your knees. Soft compression knit braces like our GenuTrain might not look like they’d be super supportive, but they’re great for combating pain from milder injuries and even early arthritis stages. Their built-in silicon pads actively massage affected areas to relieve pain. Their compression knit, meanwhile:
- Controls the adduction and abduction of the joint (essentially the inward and outward tilt of the knee), redistributing pressure away from painful areas.
- Activates the muscles so they can act as better supports for the joint. When you’re in pain, some nerve signals between the muscle and brain get interrupted, leading to worse proprioception and muscle activation. And ironically, this bodily response can lead to more pain. But compression knit fabric relieves pain and communicates with the muscle directly, helping minimise the effect.
- And it stimulates blood flow, speeding up recovery and helping tense muscles relax.
However, you may need a rigid or semi-rigid knee brace for more severe injuries and medical conditions. Their splint, strapping, and padding construction will provide external support to the joint, helping relieve more pressure. Picking out the best knee brace for such cases can be tricky, though, since the level of support differs.
Check out these resources to help you decide:
For acute and overuse injuries, take a couple of days to rest, ice, and elevate the joint and keep it compressed with a knit brace. These steps will help relieve any swelling around the area and let your injured tissues heal.
Strengthen the knees
Exercise is one of the best remedies for joint pain. Your knees rely heavily on your leg muscles for support. So when the support isn’t adequate, it can irritate the joint. To strengthen your knees and start doing pain-free squats, try:
- Mini Squats. They’re a less demanding version of the full squat and are a good way to work the same muscle groups without putting as much pressure on the knee.
- Straight Leg Raises. These are great for working the quads, which are vital supports for your knee joint.
- Glute Bridges. These work the hamstrings and glutes, which support your knees and your hips.
See how to do these exercises and more: How to Strengthen Your Knees
Seek specialist advice
It’s always good to get a professional assessment. Specialists like physiotherapists and osteopaths can assess your condition and provide an accurate diagnosis, which is the first step to properly addressing the cause of your pain. They can also:
- Recommend a specific exercise plan
- Massage out muscle tension
- Recommend any additional pain relief options like over-the-counter medications and steroidal injections.
To sum up
Acute injuries, overuse injuries, and improper form are common causes of knee pain when squatting. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to relieve it. Minding your form and activity levels, getting a good knee brace, and strengthening the joint are all good for relieving pain and preventing recurrence.
If you require assistance selecting the right product for your needs or wearing the brace, call us on 1300 668 466 or contact us via live chat.
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