Does knee pain plague you when squatting down to tie your shoes, or pick up your child? Do you avoid bending at the knees at all costs only to arch your spine like a jumbo shrimp when glutes get to boots? Squatting is one of the fundamental movements of life and isn’t reserved solely for #beastmode.
Besides cartilage and ligament tears, many factors can cause knee pain. Let’s take a look at some of the little-known causes and the simple changes you can make to reduce pain now and in the future.
Common Reasons For Knee Pain When Squatting Down and What You Can Do to Help
Poor Ankle Mobility
The joints in our bodies are organized by something called the kinetic chain. The kinetic chain is the alternation of mobile joints and stable joints. The ankle is classified as a mobile joint, as it can move through many planes: up, down, left, right and in circles. The next joint in the chain is the knee, which has the purpose of stability, and it’s far less mobile. The next joint, the hips, can move in many directions, and therefore, classed as a mobile joint.
When a mobile joint loses range of motion, your body attempts to compensate this by creating mobility in the next closest joint, making it unstable. So, if you’re missing the range of motion in your ankle, your body will create instability in the knee, which is appalling!
A test for ankle mobility simply involves squatting down. If you notice your heels lifting off the floor, you’re in trouble and should seek to regain mobility ASAP!
Take time each day to perform any one, or all, of the following mobility drills:
• Use a lacrosse ball to roll the muscles under your feet
• Sit on the floor with your legs extended and stacked on top of each other. Place the foam roller under your calf/Achilles area. Lift your butt off the ground with your hands to apply pressure to your legs and the roller. Wave your feet slowly side to side to release the tissues.
• Foam roll your quads and ITB.
• Sit in a deep squat for as long as you can to get your body comfortable in the bottom of the position (if you experience terrible pain, stop immediately and work more with your foam roller and lacrosse ball)
Another common reason for knee pain during the squat is poor technique. The squat is a natural movement, but it doesn’t mean everyone is a natural at doing it.
Poor technique can be seen when the knees and ankles collapse inward as you squat or when there is a lack of hinging at the hips, causing your knees shoot forward. Both of these faults load tremendous weight on the knees causing damage and pain.
To stop your knees collapsing, stand with your toes pointing forward while consciously pointing your knees outwards as you squat. Important: Your knees are the only things that should point outwards! Keep your toes pointing forward throughout the movement and don’t let them fan out.
To improve your hip hinge ensure you bend at the hips before you bend at the knees. Imagine you’re trying to sit on a chair a few feet behind you. The further back your can shoot your butt, the less your knees will shoot forward.
Disclaimer, some people have longer femur (thigh) bones than others, and this can cause the knees to travel past the line of the toes even when hip hinging. If this is the case for you, squatting shouldn’t be a problem as long as you pay close attention to the backward motion of the hips.