Knee pain while squatting

The knee joint is one of the heaviest joints in the human body. It is subjected to the greatest load, so there is often discomfort. You can often hear the question: why do my knees hurt when I squat? There are many reasons for knee pain while squatting.

Most often, knee pain is caused by trauma, although other factors can also be affected. Sometimes the inability to squat even speaks of a serious illness.

Also read: What is functional movement training?

Causes of knee pain when squatting down

To determine the exact cause of pain, a comprehensive history and correct clinical examination are needed. The doctor needs the patient’s info about age, physical activity, profession, possible knee injury, location and intensity of pain, the spread of pain, at what time the pain occurs, type of pain, accompanying symptoms, etc.

The problem occurs when you have problems with hip or ankle mobility or if your movement comes more from your spine rather than your hips. When the hips are well bent the squat will be performed with ease and there is a smaller chance for knee pain when bending to occur.

If, on the other hand, the hips do not bend well or movement occurs more on the spine, the knees can take on too much strain which can create compression and discomfort and potential injuries. However, the most common cause of knee pain is an incorrect distribution of the load on sports activities or injuries.

Wrongly performed exercise is most commonly causing knee pain while squatting

Woman in a squat

If there is a pain in the knees of a child or adult when squatting rather than getting up, the reason is probably the wrong exercise performance. When engaging in physical culture, you need to ensure that your knees are facing forward while parallel to your legs.

When doing squats or lunges, especially with a load, you should not bend the knee at a sharp angle because in that case, a large load is obtained and there is a high risk of knee injuries and pain.

Tendon damage

Tendons are dense fibrous tissue that connects muscles to areas of bone. Such injuries are mostly found in athletes. The pain, in this case, is not permanent, it manifests itself only with the load – jumping, running, climbing stairs, and also after it.

Mostly there are uncomfortable feelings in the front of the knee and knee. Their manifestation primarily depends on the level of tendon and muscle damage. In complex injuries, when a full muscle with 4 heads occurs, the person cannot walk. Then surgical treatment is needed.

Ligament damage

Very often, after bumps or falls, a sprain occurs, after which there is pain in the knees as you run. This is mainly accompanied by tissue swelling and hematoma.

If the ligaments that hold the lower leg and femur bones together and are located on the outer and inner surface of the leg, knee pain during descent from the ladder and other loads may remain damaged even after treatment is completed.

Damage to the meniscus

It is a complete or partial rupture of the cartilage tissue that makes up the meniscus. If this process is slow, then we generally do not notice it immediately. It is manifested by small swelling and mild pain.

If the meniscus is completely torn, the cartilage fibers very often block the movement of the joint, while at the same time causing severe pain in the knees. Treatment of this condition with folk remedies is impossible. In this case, surgical intervention is inevitable.

Osgood-Schlatter disease

This pathology is usually susceptible to teenagers who are actively involved in sports. There are complaints of knee pain when squatting and standing. They can be of varying intensity, from mild to cutting pain.

Basically, they withdraw after removing the load. This causes swelling at the front of the joint. Osgood-Schlatter disease usually occurs in a chronic form. It completely passes by the end of the bone growth time.

Damage to the cup

Basically, it is the movement of a small bone that covers the front of the knee to the outer limb. This causes severe knee pain, especially above the knee cap, when climbing or descending the stairs and squatting. In most cases, it is determined visually. With such an injury, you may notice that the bone has moved slightly and taken a vertical position. But later relocations are possible.

Other pathologies that can cause knee pain while squatting

We must not forget that knee pain when squatting and standing up can be a symptom of a very serious illness.

Joint diseases:

In these cases, in addition to knee pain, various signs of inflammation will appear:

  • Changes in skin tone over the affected joint, as well as a local increase in temperature
  • Swelling
  • General reaction of the human body like weakness or fever
  • Stiffness of motion

If knee pain and kneeling and getting up are manifestations of disease caused by infection, as well as other reasons, treatment and consultation with a rheumatologist, orthopedist or surgeon cannot be delayed.

Knee pain and cracking when squatting

Cracking, crunching or creaking in the knee does not immediately mean that you have an inflammatory process or arthritis. Although cracking is the main symptom of arthritis, it can often be harmless.

The occasional occurrence of the sound phenomenon of crepitation (“cracking”) in the joints is a normal occurrence in the joints. Women are more often affected by painless crepitations due to the weaker connective tissue of the female body.

Crepitations in the knee, especially when squatting, are most often caused by damage to the cartilage on the patella (chipboard) or inside the knee, due to the high degree of mobility of that joint.

In addition to the knee, cracking can also occur in other joints. If your knee doesn’t hurt when you crack, you have no reason to worry.

What exactly happens when the knee cracks?

When gases (oxygen O2, nitrogen N2 and carbon monoxide CO) accumulate in the area surrounding the joint, small bubbles form in the synovial fluid. It is found in all joints in the body and facilitates movement, lubricates the joint and nourishes the cartilage. The gases form in the form of bubbles until the articular surfaces come into contact again.

When the knee bends, this bubble bursts and causes crepitations in the knee (cracking, crunching, creaking in the knee). It is a normal occurrence and happens to almost everyone sometimes.

On the other hand, arthritis damages the bone and cartilage so by moving that damaged joint it can break. Although damaged cartilage can be a problem, if it does not cause pain – there is no need for alarm.

Crepitation is very common in younger people, while in older age the joints are less mobile due to wear and tear and then there are no more crepitations, but crepitations occur due to the friction of one joint surface against another. They occur in people who have a disorder of function, but not the structure of the joint.

Other causes of cracking in the knee

Cracking in the knee can be caused by:

  • Meniscus injury – the most common injury in athletes, caused by a sprained ankle while the knee is bent. The meniscus is particularly vulnerable to rotational knee movements. The older you are, the weaker the meniscus and the easier it is to get injured. At a younger age, it can be caused by sports activities or as a result of injury.
  • Chondromalacia patellae (chondromalacia bursitis, runners knee) – pain that is felt behind the patella in the knee and is usually caused by some injury. It most commonly occurs in young athletes (especially runners). Pain caused by chondromalacia of the patella is mostly exacerbated during strenuous activities or prolonged sitting with bent knees.
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome – pain that occurs in the area of the patellar bone and thigh bone. There is pain when climbing and descending stairs, as well as accompanying crepitation, and it is aggravated by a long bent knee.

Can I squat with knee pain?

The feeling of knee pain during exercise can be alarming. At one point you feel great, and then you realize that sharp pain occurs every time you bend down to squat. This may lead to ask yourself if you should squat when your knee hurts.

The often discomfort that occurs when squatting makes many wary of these exercises. And it is okay that when you have an injury, you shy away from testing it too quickly. However, it could be just the thing you need to strengthen the area. So, with proper form and gradual pushing, you could be back to normal quickly.

It is important to distinguish muscle discomfort versus joint pain. If you challenge yourself for a demanding exercise, it is likely that it will produce a little muscular discomfort. However, in that case, you shouldn’t experience joint pain.

The reasons why someone feels knee pain while squatting can be various. However, the most often cause is an improper or unsafe squat form that may cause more harm than good. That’s why you shouldn’t give up on squats immediately, but first, learn how to do it properly. If the pain doesn’t increase while working out and doesn’t lead to increased joint pain afterward, then you should feel comfortable continuing to exercise.

If you notice that only specific squats cause you knee pain, you should take a break from those painful movements for recovery, and focus on strengthening different muscle groups instead. Also, remember to always exercise in moderation, maintain proper alignment during every exercise, and take adequate rest between workouts to decrease the mechanical stresses to the knee.

How do I stop my knees from hurting when I squat?

To squat without knee pain you have to work on your knee strength. Therefore, sports activity and preventive measures that can protect you from joint and cartilage damage should not be neglected.

Suitable sports for the prevention of knee pain are walking, swimming, yoga or tai chi, cycling and building. Doing sports at the same time maintains weight and does not unnecessarily burden the joints with excessive weight.

If you can’t bend your knee without pain, here are some tips on how to preventively protect your knees and get rid of pain and cracking:

  • Regular movement and exercise – you need to strengthen the leg muscles and not forget the knee muscles. Therefore, include weight training, resistance training, or self-weight exercises (such as squats and lunges) in your fitness plan at least twice a week.
  • Exercise before training – you should warm up muscles should before training. Therefore, you should not omit exercise to avoid injury or overload. Hard training can easily endanger stiff muscles and joints.
  • Stretching – before and after exercise you should stretch your muscles and joints. Stretch your front and back thigh muscles regularly – then your back box.
  • Take care of your shoes – wear comfortable shoes that do not put unnecessary pressure on your ankles, especially if you stand at work a lot.
  • Maintain optimal weight – this means you should not be overweight or obese. In such conditions, body weight exerts increased pressure on the knees and joints. Obesity is in practice a risk factor for knee arthritis.
  • Do not overload the joints – in order not to overload the joints, you must change different types of movements. So walk, run up the stairs, ride a bike or run. However, do not practice just one activity. Uniform movement causes the same parts of the knee joint to wear out, and alternating physical activity always burdens the other part of the knee joint and will not wear you out or fall out of play quickly.

Are squats and half squats bad for knees?

Many are afraid of injuring their knees while doing squats and when they first feel knee pain while squatting, they avoid them altogether. However, this avoidance may not be necessary. Squats can lead to injuries only if done improperly. Otherwise, they are actually perfectly healthy.

Squats are not bad for the knees and are one of the most functional moves. From the time we are children throughout our lives, we squat for a variety of reasons and purposes.

Until recently, the assumption that squatting was not the best choice for an athlete was based on a study conducted in 1961 at a college in Texas under the supervision of Dr. Karl Klein. Dr. Klein had two groups of subjects in his study.

One group consisted of Olympic weightlifters who often performed squats in training, while the other (control group) consisted of full-time college students. The measurement was performed with an instrument that Dr. Klein personally made. He noted that a large number of weightlifters suffer from weak anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and collateral (MCL and LCL) ligaments.

All three of these ligaments serve to stabilize the knee joint. Shortly after the research, the news spread that squatting is an exercise that negatively affects the stability of the knee and can cause severe injuries to the knee joint. Fortunately, this assumption was refuted by numerous studies which proved that squatting is not bad for knees, but was even responsible for the increased stability of the joint.

It has been shown that the forces acting on the cruciate ligaments of the knee are far less during a proper deep squat as opposed to a half squat or a quarter squat. We can conclude that deep squats should not be feared, at least not in terms of injury and health.

Are squats bad for arthritic knees?

No matter if you have osteoarthritis of the knees or not, you should still exercise to maintain your health. If you have arthritic knees squatting will help you to get more stable joints.

It helps to build leg and hip strength and over time, the range of motion increases. To conclude, it’s safe to include squats in your exercise routine and sitting in a squat is not always bad for your knees. Even if you feel some minimal knee joint discomfort, don’t be discouraged. You should workout and over time the discomfort will go away.

People with arthritis usually find the most benefit in wall squats. This is because squatting against the wall reduces the risk of putting pressure on knees or doing the exercise incorrectly.

How to squat properly to avoid knee pain while squatting

Learn to do proper squats that are easy on the knees to avoid knee pain while squatting and prevent that pain altogether. Even if your knees can often ache from too much strain while doing squats, don’t give up because there is no better exercise to tighten your lower body than squats.

The problem is that many ignore all the rules and do them incorrectly, with a large load and poor posture during exercise. To avoid this it is necessary to learn to do them properly so that the knees don’t suffer.

Once you learn to do them properly, your knees will say thank you because proper squats prevent knee pain that can also occur due to some other factors or some other exercises.

The point is that when squatting, your knees always stay in the same line with your soles, and while performing the exercise, they do not come out of that straight line. Neither outwards nor inwards.

You must also pay attention to the buttocks, which you must not lower too low, that is, you must lower it so low that your knees do not cross the line of your toes while lowering them. So if you have the opportunity to practice in front of a mirror try to focus on those lines. This will help you even more because you will not have to look down, but will push your body slightly forward, which will make it even easier to perform a proper squat. Whatever type of squat you do.

There is no better exercise than proper exercise. Not only for more effective muscle growth but also to prevent injuries that could slow you down on your way to becoming fit with a nice toned body.


A variety of factors can cause knee pain during squats. However, the most common cause is an improper performance of the exercise leading to injury. That doesn’t mean you have to write off squats from your exercise plan. In fact, squats are one of the most important functional exercises and can strengthen your knees.

Therefore, if you feel slight pain, first learn to perform the exercise properly and continue to use it to strengthen your knee stability. The pain will then disappear. However, it would be best to contact your doctor or trainer beforehand to make sure what exactly is causing your pain and how to resolve it.

Also read: Running after knee replacement


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