Quad Tendon Pain & Squats

Men doing squats with dumbbells in gymnasium
Squatting with weights may cause injury. (Image: Robert Daly/OJO Images/Getty Images)

Squats are an exercise that involves lifting weights upon your shoulders and conducting a series of squatting movements. This strengthens your legs, especially the group of four muscles above your knee called the quadriceps. The quadriceps muscles taper together to form a large tendon, which attaches to your patella, or knee cap. This large tendon, called the rectus femoris tendon, is susceptible to injury while doing squats. To reduce your risk of injury, consult with a personal trainer about appropriate technique and how much weight you should start with.

Purpose of Doing Squats

Squatting weights mainly work out your quadriceps and the gluteal muscles of your buttocks, although your hamstring muscles in the back of your thigh and your calf muscles of your lower leg can also become stronger with the exercise, according to the book “Human Physiology: An Integrated Approach.” Squats are done with free weights on a barbell or on a fitness machine designed specifically for that purpose. Doing squats essentially requires doing deep knee bends with weight resting on your shoulders behind your head, which provides resistance. Resistance training strengthens muscles but also increases risk of injury.

The Quadriceps

Four muscles comprise the quadriceps group: the vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis and rectus femoris muscles, according to the “Atlas of Human Anatomy.” The functions of your quadriceps include extending your knee and flexing your hip. As such, your quadriceps are essential for walking, running and jumping. Doing squats using weight resistance may improve your performance in these activities.

Tendon Pain

Rectus femoris tendon pain is caused by overuse or strain of the quadriceps muscles. According to the book “Clinically Oriented Anatomy,“ rectus femoris tendon injury and pain is especially common in sprinters, long-distance runners and weightlifters who do a lot of squats.Tendon pain is a common sign of tendonitis, which also involves inflammation and dysfunction. Tendon pain may also be a sign of a rupture, which is a tearing of the tissue. Ruptured tendons often require surgery, although an inflamed tendon can often be treated at home.

Treatment and Prevention

If your tendon pain is due to tendonitis, rest, ice, light massage and short-term use of anti-inflammatories are often effective at controlling symptoms and promoting healing, according to the “Textbook for Functional Medicine.” Using good technique during squatting, such as keeping your toes pointed slightly outward and maintaining an arched lower back, prevents excessive force from being exerted on the quadriceps tendon. Warming up and stretching beforehand, wearing proper footwear and using knee braces may also help prevent injuries during squats.

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