Why Do We Get Knee Pain When Squatting
Pain is a mysterious thing. There is a lot that we still dont yet understand.
A person can have no physical damage to their knees, yet experience pain. Whereas a person can have physical damage but experience no pain.
This is not to say there is no relationship, but that the relationship is not the end all be all. This is because the relationship between pain and physical injury is not causal. Pain is an experience and is different for everyone, so it is important to keep in mind that x may not necessarily lead to y.
Mobilize Your Quadriceps And Calves
Excessive tension in the quads and calves can put the knees in a vulnerable position during squatting. Thus, its important to devote a few specific mobility drills to these muscles. Besides dedicated foam rolling, incorporate the following two drills into your warm-up prior to squatting.
- Reverse Lunge with Overhead Reach 1×6-8 each side
- Toes-Up Hip Hinge 1×10
These drills not only target the quads and calves, they also force you to get back into your hips, strengthening the glutes and hamstrings, which, as discussed above, will further reduce knee pain from Squats. You can also use these drills between sets of Squats as active rest.
Knee Pain And Squatting
Scale the same black hole concept way down to the much more modest, but no less complex, realm of human-sized problems. People observe the world indirectly through sense organs and perception and can interpret and communicate experiences to one another. Every sense requires an interpretation. Light collected through your eyes is transmitted and made sense of by your brain. Assuming the interpretation is accurate, it is also ever so slightly in the past. Enough so that everything you see, experience, and react to is a little bit out of date. Our senses are not perfect, but they still give us information about what may be going on inside or around our bodies.
For internal senses, pain is a common experienceidentifiable and describable. Pain may give us hints about what is causing it , but it often presents without an easily identifiable root cause. Like the black hole, we may not know exactly what triggers our pain sense, but we know they are experiencing something. It is easy to know why your foot hurts if you drop a barbell plate on it, but it is more difficult to know why someones knees or back hurt when they lift. When pain is not easily identifiable, we have to look at surrounding circumstances. Unless or until you see a doctor, all you may really know is that things hurt.
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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 to help you understand how far back your hips should go.
How Can I Prevent Getting A Knee Injury While Squatting
The debates around warming up and recovering from a heavy session will rage on long after youve finished reading this article. But Nick says properly preparing yourself through consistent warm-up exercises, proper recovery techniques and isolated leg muscles exercises will give you the best chance of remaining injury free.
Nick says: Theres a fancy word I hear a lot, which sport scientists like to use to impress their athletes called Mechanotransduction. Basically, it means lightly loading the body before a workout. I strongly recommend taking this on board. Before your set of squats, try removing all or most of the weight and warming the muscles up with a light load.
Effective recovery techniques are also so important for avoiding injury, Nick adds. I recommend avoiding ice baths as this will diminish training adaptations. But do try compression garments, stay hydrated, active rest techniques and nutrition supplements to support effective recovery.
Further isolated strength training can help too, particularly with symptoms in the knee. Any increased quad strength helps spread the load across a bigger surface area, putting less pressure on the knee joint when performing the squat lift, Nick concludes.
If youre still getting little niggles despite taking on all of the above, its worth rethinking your training plan and making small adjustments to sets, reps, weights, rest time, frequency and types of exercise.
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How To Prevent Knee Pain From Squats
Emphasizing form, stretching your ankles and hips, and reacting quickly can all prevent future knee pain.
If you feel in pain as you squat, stop immediately. For serious pains, use the R.I.C.E technique. Take a break from heavy exercise until your knees feel healed.
Before you go back to the gym, think about what might be causing the problem. Were you putting pressure on your knee, and collapsing your ankles? Did poor hip mobility lead to a lack of stability? How is your form looking?
Once youve identified the cause, some easy additions to your routine can get your squats looking stronger than ever. If youre really struggling, then speak to a physical therapist, or a personal trainer. You can then work together to prevent future knee pain from holding you back at the gym.
How To Do Squats Properly To Prevent Knee Pain
Squats, when done properly, can act as an essential addition to your exercise routine. If you are a beginner, use the following steps to learn how to do squats properly:
Before you start, place a chair behind you at a distance of 10-12 inches. Stand with your feet spread out shoulder-width apart and toes outwards at an angle of 45Â°. Raise your hands above your shoulders and place them on the wall at an equal distance from your head. Face the wall, with your nose and eyes looking upwards. You should have your chin, chest and toes touching the wall.
Look up and arch your back, with your chest out. Lift your toes and place your body weight on your heels. Avoid squatting with your weight on your toes as it leads to undue pressure on your knees. Always have your spine in proper alignment with your chest pushed forward and hips back.
Keeping your chest parallel to the wall and hips pushed backwards begin lowering your body slowly, a few inches at one time. While you lower your body, tighten your abs and put your weight on your heels.
Stop lowering when you touch the chair that is placed behind you. Make use of your glutes to raise yourself upwards. Keep your knees pushed outwards while you raise yourself. If the knees push inwards, it is a sign of weak abductors.
Note: Pay attention to your breath. Breathe in when you squat to a lower position and exhale when you come back to the top.
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Shifting Your Weight Forward
One of the most common mistakes beginners do is leaning forward when squatting, making the weight swing onto the toes. As a result, the heels raise upwards, which makes it prone to accidents and injuries.
This improper form puts more pressure onto the lifters knee joint, straining the surrounding tendons. Repeatedly doing this movement error will manifest into knee pain, specifically in the knee cap region.
The bar must be fixated over the mid-foot and it should only travel up and down, not leaning forward. Distribute the pressure of the weight into the ground with your foot, which means your toes shouldnt take all the force.
The simple shift in movement allows the weight of the bar and plates to equally dispense onto your ankle and hip joints, which prevents your knees from becoming overworked.
If the quick fix method doesnt work for you, you may be experiencing ankle stiffness. This is when your ankles arent flexible enough to bend and get into proper position, your body compensates by shifting the weight to your toes.
We recommend taking an ankle mobility test, so you can gauge your physical limitations and squat safely.
Taking The Test
- Kneel with one leg in front of a wall, the distance between the wall and your toes should be five inches.
- Push your knees towards the wall. The goal is for your knee to connect to the wall without lifting your heels, weight should be equally distributed.
Increase Your Hip Strength
If your knees were the horse, your hips would be the chariot. The muscles around your hips exert a major influence on how your knees move, particularly during the squat. Weakness and/or sub-optimal function of hip musculature plays a role in almost all common knee conditions: knee osteoarthritis7, PFPS8, ACL injuries9,and ITBS10.
The glutes help push your knees out as you squat down. If they are weak, or you do not coordinate them properly, your knees will tend to cave in . This places abnormal stress on the knee cap, meniscus, ACL, and MCL. Keeping your glutes engaged can help with your knee alignment by forcing your knees to line up with your toes as you descend deeper into the squat position. Try adding the hip exercises below into your exercise routine to increase the strength of your hips and glutes:
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How To Squat Correctly
Learn how to avoid adding pain to sore knees caused by arthritis by following simple steps for proper squatting and building strength.
Learn how to properly squat and build leg strength to avoid added knee pain.
Squatting is a functional move. It helps you do activities in your daily life, such as getting pots out of a bottom cabinet or picking up shoes off the floor. Squatting also helps build strength in the legs and hips, and stronger muscles mean more stable joints.
But if you dont squat correctly, it can be painful to sore knees. Too many people compensate for sore knees by bending over at the waist, which can lead to a sore back, says Cynthia Harrell, physical therapist and clinical coordinator of the arthritis and osteoporosis programs at the Duke Center for Living at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
The Right Way to Squat
For example, when you go to reach into a low cabinet hold on to the countertop and sit down, using the muscles in your arms and buttocks for lowering and pulling yourself up. If squatting this way is still painful, place a chair in front of the cabinet or area where you need to pick something up. Reaching to the floor from a seated position is much less stressful on the knees, says Harrell. Build Strength with Wall Squats
1. Stand with your back flat against a wall. Feet should be shoulder-width apart and heels 18 inches away from wall. Keep knees in line with heels, not out in front of toes.
Prevention And How To Squat
Warming up properly before exercising can help prevent injury. Warming up the body is especially important in older adults, as muscles become less flexible and can tear more easily as people age.
To warm up, use movements that mobilize the joints and increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the muscles, such as marching on the spot. Stretching the legs before and after exercise can also help lower the risk of injury or strains.
To squat correctly:
- start in a standing position
- keep the feet shoulder-width apart
- while exhaling, bend the knees and lower the buttocks as though going to sit down
- hold the arms out to maintain balance
- ensure that the heels remain planted on the floor
- keep the buttocks above knee level and only go as low as is possible without causing discomfort
- keep the thighs parallel to the floor
- keep the back in a straight, neutral position
- make sure that the hips, knees, and toes are all pointing forward
- inhale and return to a standing position by pushing down into the heels and keeping the buttocks tight
The Arthritis Foundation recommend that people who are experiencing pain when squatting do squats against a wall. Using the wall for support can help people strengthen weak or injured muscles and reduce pain over time.
People can do squats against a wall using the following steps:
People can use the R.I.C.E method for relieving pain in the knee. The R.I.C.E method involves:
Over-the-counter drugs, such as ibuprofen, can help reduce pain and swelling.
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Increase Your Ankle Mobility
Ankle mobility is a massive factor affecting squatting mechanics. If you are lacking in this department, the deeper you squat down the more trouble you will be in. The main consequence will be your knees caving inwards and heels lifting off the ground. Both of these movement patterns increase pressure on the knees and are associated with knee pain when squatting. Further, these movement dysfunctions along with ankle stiffness are a factor in several of the most common conditions causing knee pain.
- A lack of ankle mobility is a risk factor for patellar tendonitis. Athletes who have limited ankle flexibility are worse at absorbing impact during jump landings.1 This leads to more stress on the knee joint as time goes on.
- Those with knee arthritis tend to have flatter feet and squat with their feet turned out. Both of these undesirable foot positions are commonly caused by poor ankle range of motion.2 Patients with patellar arthritis exhibit 20% less ankle mobility than healthy individuals.3 Furthermore, approximately 73% of knee osteoarthritis patients have signs of arthritis behind their kneecap.4 Knee pain when squatting is one of the most common complaints associated with knee arthritis. Loosening up the ankles could help improve knee function thereby reducing arthritis-related knee pain.
Where Do You Feel The Pain From A Torn Meniscus
In a typical moderate tear, you feel pain at the side or in the center of the knee, depending on where the tear is. Often, you are still able to walk. Swelling usually increases gradually over 2 to 3 days and may make the knee feel stiff and limit bending. There is often sharp pain when twisting or squatting.
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How Do I Fix Pain Above My Knee
To help relieve your pain and speed recovery, you can: Rest your knee. Ice your knee to ease pain and swelling. Wrap your knee. Elevate your leg on a pillow when you sit or lie down. Take NSAIDs, if needed, like ibuprofen or naproxen. Do stretching and strengthening exercises, especially for your quadriceps muscles.
Get Rid Of The Obvious Suspects
Squats do not cause knee pain all by themselves, but bad squats or squats overdone may. Assuming you are not engaged in high-rep, high-impact activities, the first and most obvious suspect for knee pain from squats is your form. If you are low bar squatting, there are two main issues you want to eliminate from the lineup of possible problems. The first is not bending over enough during the descent. The second is leading upward with your chest from the bottom of the squat.
Not bending over enough when during the low bar squat causes a lifters knees to shift forward near the bottom of the movement. When the knees shift forward, the bar moves forward. When the bar moves forward, the lifters weight shifts toward the toes. A coach, seeing someone who complains about knee pain, who is also trying to low bar squat with a vertical torso, will likely address that form issue before making other changes to the persons lifts or programming.
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Knee Sleeves Takeaway: Should You Wear Them
While these provide support on the knees by lessening pressure, it does not replace training and technique. You still have to make sure youre squatting with the right form and posture before anything else.
If youre looking for a way to keep muscles using the appropriate technique, knee sleeves can limit the discomfort. The formula is to use the right equipment + proper form = strength growth.
Using knee sleeves are a good way of preventing knee pain from occurring, but if youre already dealing with knee discomfort, using a knee pillow helps you to treat your knee faster.
Sample Plan For When You Have Knee Pain While Squatting
So what if you have knee pain now, what if you encounter knee pain in the future?
Heres a sample step by step approach on what you can do when you have knee pain squatting to get back to squatting.
This is just an example. I recommend seeing a professional to rule out anything serious and to diagnose your exact situation.
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How To Exercise With Bad Knees
Learn how to exercise with bad knees. Or, if your knees are in good shape, learn how to keep them that way. How To Exercise With Bad Knees
Sometimes, it takes a lot of practice, acknowledges Jamie. Some of our guests here at Pritikin have backs that have been out of alignment for so long that they dont really know what good alignment is, or what it feels like, let alone how to achieve it. The one-on-one attention they receive here is a huge help.