Do You Get Knee Pain When Squatting?

Many people have knee pain when squatting.

Watch the video to learn simple tips on how to squat deeper without knee pain...

Many people who suffer from knee pain have pain or difficulty squatting.  Usually the pain is in one of a few places when doing this:

  1. Pain on the front of the knee below the kneecap
  2. Pain deep inside the joint behind the kneecap
  3. Pain on the inner side of the knee
  4. Pain on the outer side of the knee

Which pain you have partially determines which of the following techniques may work best for you.  Use the tips below based on which type of knee pain you have.

 For pain on the front or “deep inside” the knee when squatting:

  1. When squatting, you don’t want your knees to go in front of your toes. This puts more stress on your quadriceps muscles (the muscles on the front side of the thigh).  Your kneecap sits inside the tendon of the quadriceps, and putting too much tension on this muscle while trying to squat creates a lot of compression of the kneecap on the thigh bone.  This can even cause a grinding sensation or even a grinding noise.
  2. You can avoid your knees going in front of your toes by starting out your squat by pushing your hips backward and leaning your trunk forward. This puts your bodyweight more toward your heels than your toes, and it also causes you to shift more of the effort to your hip extensor muscles (your hamstrings in the back of the thigh and your gluteus maximus - a.k.a. your butt).
  3. The deeper you squat, the more you will have to lean your trunk forward to keep from falling backward. When first practicing this, do it in front of a study chair or couch.  You’ll probably like you’re going to fall backwards, so have a seat to land in just in case.
  4. Come back up to standing by pushing your hips and pelvis back underneath of you and rolling your pelvis underneath you. This allows you to stand back up using more effort from your powerful hip extensor muscles and less of your thigh muscles.  This means less compression on your kneecap, and hopefully less pain as well.

For pain on the inner or outer side of the knee when squatting:

This is often related to a rotational problem in the legs.  This can be a result of muscle imbalances in the joints around the knee – the low back, hips, ankle, and foot.  Often times the knee itself is not the problem, it’s just the thing that’s sitting in the middle getting beaten up by the problems above and below it.  One of the most common problems is the arch of your foot flattening and your knee going inwards as a result as shown in the video above.

Again, this can be caused by imbalances in several different joints. You could do exercises for each of those particular joints, but those joints all work together in a functional movement like squatting.  Or, you could work on all of those joints at the same time just by fixing the movement that’s causing you pain in the first place.

Here are some suggestions on how to squat without pain on the inner or outer side of the knee:

  1. Start by standing in a comfortable position. Don’t worry about which direction your feet point.
  2. No matter which direction your knees point, turn your knees outward slightly so that your knees are lined up pointing in the same direction as your feet. This will likely cause you to put more weight on the outer side of your foot and cause your arch to lift slightly.
  3. Slightly scrunch your toes to get your big toe to touch the floor while still keeping the arch of your foot lifted.
  4. Use the tips previously mentioned, pushing your hips backward and leaning your trunk forwards, keeping the weight on the back, outer side of the foot to keep your arches lifted and knees over toes when squatting.
  5. Only squat as deeply as you can without allowing your foot to flatten or your knees to go inwards. If you feel like you hit a stopping point, notice where you feel the limitation in movement (often in the front or back of the ankle, or front or back of the hip joint), and then come back up.

Using this technique should help decrease or eliminate your knee pain when squatting.  If you do notice that the depth of your squat is limited when using this technique, whether by pain, or by motion limitation, adding a few specific exercises to target the problem area may be helpful.  This will be a little different for each person based on their particular needs.  There’s not one “standard” set of exercises that work for everyone with knee pain.  If you need some specific help for YOUR knee pain, give us at call at 314-941-3970 or email me at dave@m4lpt.com .

Want More Useful Tips on How To Keep Your Knees Healthy

Download our FREE Guide full of self-help tips to help you identify the 5 Kinds of Knee Pain You Should NOT Ignore & How To Stop Them Before They Get Worse!

Knee Pain Guide by Knee Pain Specialist Dr. Dave Candy. Movement 4 Life, St. Louis, Manchester, Ballwin, Chesterfield, Des Peres, Ellisville, MO Learn to relieve: knee pain when going up and down stairs, knee pain when sitting, knee pain when walking, and more!

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