What Causes Knee Pain When Squatting

If you have experienced persistent knee pain while squatting, issues may be associated with your cartilage, knee cap, hip flexors, and more. Improper stance/posture can also exacerbate knee pain. 

An Overview of Knee Pain When Squatting

Our bodies are capable of squatting without any discomfort or pain. As we bend our knees, muscle strength, flexibility, and alignment come into play. Problems associated with these factors can exert pressure on the knee joint leading to pain and inflammation. 

With any physical movement, paying attention to your body and its limitations is key. Squatting may not be a primary cause of knee pain, but along with various musculoskeletal conditions, it can be a risk factor for progressive pain. 

Possible Causes of Knee Pain When Squatting

Squatting Incorrectly

Poor stance/posture can aggravate knee pain while doing squats. The knee joint might be severely strained when the hips, knees, or ankles are in the wrong position during a deep squat. This pressure causes repetitive friction between the patella and femur. Good technique involves:

  • Placing your knees a hip-width apart.
  • Ensuring your weight is spread evenly.
  • Being mindful of your upper body and knees.

Maintaining good posture is especially important during your workout (with weights).

Patellofemoral Syndrome (Runner's Knee)

Runner's knee, also known as Patellofemoral syndrome, involves misalignment and movement issues associated with the kneecap. Knee pain while squatting results in the wear and tear of the cartilage on the back of the kneecap. Common symptoms of a runner's knee include clicking sensations, redness, and tenderness. The amount of pressure passing through the joint and a lack of synovial fluid increase inflammation and knee pain after squats.  

Patellar Tendonitis

Jumper's knee, also known as Patellar tendonitis, involves damage to the patellar tendon (right below the knee cap). Constant force through the tendon from various physical activities (jumping, kicking, and more) leads to inflammation and tears across the tendon. Hence extra pressure is added to the tendon resulting in severe pain as you squat. 

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis. It arises as the cartilage cushioning the ends of the bones wears off. Common symptoms of this condition include inflammation, stiffness, pain, bone spurs, and tenderness. As you squat, the cartilage gets compressed, increasing friction between the bones. Knee pain while squatting is why most elders find it difficult to squat. 

Tear in Cartilage

A meniscus tear is one of the most common injuries that lead to knee pain during squats. Knee pain after squats involves damage to the cartilage that forms the knee joint lining. As the knee bends, the cartilage acts as a shock absorber. However, damage to the cartilage subjects the knee to extra pressure leading to severe pain and irritation. A locking sensation and sharp pain are signs of a meniscus tear. 

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)

ITBS is signified by pain on the outer side of the knee. During a squat, the thick band running down the outer thigh to the outer portion of the kneecap tightens. This tugs on the kneecap, increasing friction and pain and causing misalignment. In addition to the pain, Iliotibial Band Syndrome is also characterized by a snapping sensation and inflammation. 

Weak Glutes

If you have weak gluteal muscles, squatting can cause knee pain. Your glutes play a huge role in supporting the knee joint and equally distributing force across the joint. Weak glutes can overexert the knee resulting in inflammation and pain. In addition to this, you may also experience balance issues, stiffness, and tenderness. 

Treatment And Prevention

RICE Treatment

A commonly used technique, the RICE method involves four components: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. 

  • Rest: Avoid any activity that could increase knee pain. 
  • Ice: Applying an ice pack for 15 minutes on the affected joint can help reduce inflammation and pain. 
  • Compression: Using a compression bandage around the joint helps reduce swelling. 
  • Elevation: Prop your leg on pillows to raise your knee to a level higher than your heart. 

Medication

Non-steroidal pain medications and anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce severe knee pain and swelling. Prescribed drugs and exercises help effectively and can help you cope. Based on the cause of knee pain and its intensity, you may have to rely on medications till your body is ready for physical engagement. 

Strengthening Exercises

For weak glutes and osteoarthritis, strengthening exercises improve knee pain. Consistently exercising for 4-8 weeks helps fully strengthen muscles and joints. Further, these exercises also improve flexibility, balance, posture, etc. Standard practices include knee bends, thigh contractions, leg raises, and hamstring stretches. Know the strengthening exercises you could choose based on the severity of your knee pain. 

Physiotherapy

In physiotherapy, assessments are conducted to determine the cause and deficits contributing to knee pain. After a comprehensive understanding, a treatment plan catered to your needs is designed. You will gradually regain strength and stability with Physiotattva's hands-on treatment and exercises. In addition to general physiotherapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, electrotherapy, and more can be provided. 

Increase Your Fitness With Physiotattva

Our team of experts helps reduce symptoms associated with knee pain and improve your physical fitness. Various treatment options, including tissue mobilization exercises, electrotherapy, acupuncture, massages, and chiropractic care, can increase strength and reduce the chances of future injuries. Reaching out to a practitioner through outpatient consultations and home services helps build an effective recovery plan. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do my knees crack when squatting?

Gas bubbles trapped inside the synovial fluid (surrounding the joints) can pop as you bend, leading to a cracking sound. 

How to fix knee pain when squatting?

Various methods, including exercise, the RICE technique, and physiotherapy, can help reduce knee pain while squatting. Being mindful of your posture as you squat is also essential.