With or without weights, regularly performing squats is a simple and convenient way to stay fit. However, squats can cause knee pain, especially when they’re performed incorrectly. Further, wear on knees from sports and other activities can make them more vulnerable to health conditions such as arthritis — which can exacerbate pain — as well as injuries. Learning to perform squats properly can help minimize discomfort and pain during the exercise.
Posture and Form
Daily posture plays a part in preventing knee pain during squats. Just like your back and hips can begin to ache from maintaining poor posture, knees are also affected. With poor posture, knees are constantly out of alignment during standing, walking and other daily movement, which can eventually lead to sudden knee pain, according to Jolie Bookspan, Ph.D. Continually allowing your knees and ankles to sway inward or keeping your feet turned out during activities can damage your knees, adds Bookspan. Further, while knee problems are common for athletes due to wear from sports, bodybuilders are more likely to develop knee issues because of improper form during squats. Any type of bending or squatting performed with most of the pressure placed on your knees can lead to knee problems and possible injury, says Bookspan.
If you develop arthritis, it can cause pain during squats and other activities. There are three basic types of arthritis — osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and post-traumatic arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis that people middle-age or older tend to develop, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Rheumatoid arthritis is less common, with one out of 50 people developing the condition. Although rheumatoid arthritis is not hereditary, certain inherited genes can make you more prone to the condition, according to Harvard Medical School. Post-traumatic knee arthritis is common for athletes because it’s caused by an injury, such as a ligament tear or a fracture. It can develop many years after an injury, and it presents like osteoarthritis. However, having weak thighs can lead to knee arthritis, so daily squatting can help strengthen legs and knees and may help prevent the development of certain types of knee arthritis, according to Bookspan. Nevertheless, if you suspect you have knee arthritis, consult with your healthcare provider and follow recommended care instructions.
If you have knee pain with full squats, you may have injured your knee without knowing it. While poor posture, arthritis or incorrect form during squats are common causes of knee pain, a recent injury may not present itself until you move your knees a certain way or perform specific exercises such as full squats. Always warm up before exercising and maintain awareness of your body and any possible injuries. If you’re experiencing knee pain while performing squats, stop exercising. Take a break from squatting and rest your knees for a couple of days, or use the RICE method — rest, ice, compression and elevation therapy. If you still have knee pain, see your healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment.
Proper Squat From
Maintain proper form when performing full squats to help prevent knee pain. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your toes pointed outward at a 45-degree angle. Keep your back arched slightly and your chest forward. Lift your toes a bit to keep your weight back on your heals. Knee pain typically occurs when your toes carry most of your weight during full squats, which puts more stress on the front of your knee. Pretend you’re sitting back in an imaginary chair as you squat. Engage your core muscles for better control. Push your hips forward to rise up out of a squat.
- ExRx.net: Squat Analysis
- ExRx.net: Squat
- DrBookspan.com; How to Fix Knee Pain; Jolie Bookspan, M.Ed, Ph.D.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Arthritis of the Knee
- Harvard Medical School: Rheumatoid Arthritis — Primary Care Initiative for Improved Diagnosis and Outcomes
- PhysioAdvisor.com: R.I.C.E. — Rest Ice Compression Elevation