The squat is an excellent exercise to strengthen the leg muscles. However, many people are not able to squat because of knee pain. In this blog post, we will look at some simple ways to modify your form in order to squat pain-free.
What causes knee pain when squatting?
Knee pain when squatting can be due to a previous injury or to overuse. Common conditions causing this pain are patellofemoral (PF) pain syndrome and meniscus tear. The PF joint is where the kneecap and femur meet at the front of your knee, while the menisci are the two cartilage cushions between your femur and tibia. In both conditions, the treatment goal is to reduce the pressure from the knee so that you allow your knee to heal.
Here is a few ways you can offload pressure from your knee joints when squatting:
1. Squat descent
There are two ways to cue squatting: sit back, when you move your hips posteriorly imagining that you are sitting on a chair far behind you. Or sit down, when you flex your knees and hips at the same time and your torso stays upright. If you are having knee pain, it is recommended to try the sit back form since it provides less pressure on the knee joint.
Another way to offload your knees is to widen your stance. With a wider stance, it is easier to move your hips backwards so that your knees don't travel excessively forwards. Also, make sure that your foot angle is set in a way that your knees point the same direction of your toes as you squat.
3. Range of motion
In terms of range of motion, the highest stress on the patellofemoral joint and meniscus is between 90 and 130 degrees of knee flexion, so you might want to temporarily limit the squat depth in order to stay within a pain free range, and gradually increase it as you get better.
Start with light weights and high repetition and gradually increase the weight over time. Make sure you don't progress too quickly as you might cause your pain to flare up.
4. Joints mobility
Other factors that can affect the way you squat are ankle, hip and lower back range of motion. Mobility and stretching exercises that target these joints can be beneficial to improve your squat depth. A Physiotherapist can help you to assess your form and advise you on specific exercises for your needs.
Changing your squat technique can be helpful to reduce knee pain. Remember, every person has unique anatomical variables, so what works for someone might not work for someone else. Consult a physiotherapist for a personalized assessment and treatment.
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