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  • Writer's pictureChloe

Knee Pain When Squatting: Causes and Relief Exercises

Feeling pain in the knee while squatting is not normal and can be a sign of trouble. Squatting is actually a normal movement that the body is designed to do regularly and without pain.

So if squatting is a normal movement, why do you feel pain? Let’s talk about what the causes of your knee pain during squatting are and how you can find relief.

What Causes Knee Pain When I Squat?

Here are some of the most common causes of knee pain while you are squatting.

Poor Form

If you are using poor technique or form while squatting, you can experience knee pain. Squatting properly, whether you are using your body weight or using additional weights, requires proper foot alignment, hip mobility, and correct squat depth.

Poor alignment of the feet during a squat can cause overstretching and pain. This can cause your knee joint to be out of alignment with your hip and this misalignment can cause significant knee pain.

Good hip mobility protects your knee joint from taking on excessive amounts of pressure, which can cause pain. Inadequate hip mobility can force the knees to take on a heavier load in squatting, which can quickly lead to injury.

Not hitting the correct depth while squatting is another cause of knee pain. Going too deep in your squat depth can put a strain on your knees but not going deep enough can cause your knees to take on excessive pressure. Both of these can quickly lead to injuries to the knee joint.

Tears in the Knee Cartilage

It is possible to have a tear in the cartilage that you only feel while squatting or otherwise moving in a way that puts weight on the knee joint. Cartilage is the connective tissue that helps to support and cushion joints. Damage to the cartilage in the knee can cause a sharp increase in pain and significant range of motion loss in the affected joint.

There are a few ways that this happens but it is usually due to an acute injury, such as a bad fall while playing basketball but can also occur due to normal wear and tear over the years. This causes knee pain due to the lack of support and cushioning that the cartilage provides. Pain due to a cartilage tear in the knee is usually aggravated by squatting due to the additional pressure on the knee during the movement.

woman with rings holding her knee

Arthritis in the Knee

Knee arthritis is the wearing down of the protective cartilage that supports and cushions the knee due to constant wear and tear on the joint over time. This condition can cause significant pain and stiffness in the affected joint.

As the knee arthritis worsens, the cartilage will completely wear away and allow the bones to rub together. This can be exacerbated by squatting due to the extra weight and pressure that is placed on the knee joint during the movement.

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What Can I Do to Treat and Prevent Knee Pain?

Knee pain can be extremely painful and can not only hinder your workouts but can get in the way of living your life. Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to treat and prevent knee pain.


The RICE treatment is a great start to treating knee pain from squatting. This has been a go-to tool for professional athletes and weekend warriors alike since the 1970’s. The RICE treatment involves rest, ice, compression, and elevating the injury for relief.

Rest the knee and try to avoid doing anything that causes weight or pressure on the knee. Unfortunately, that means stopping the squats until it feels better.

Ice the affected area by getting an ice pack, wrapping it with some paper towels, and holding it to your knee for twenty minutes on and then twenty minutes off, and repeat. This will help bring that pain down and reduce the inflammation.

Compress the area by using a compression bandage to wrap around the knee. Wrap tightly, but not so tight that it causes pain or cuts off your circulation. Compression can reduce the swelling and also helps to support the knee joint to give you a little more stability.

Elevate the affected joint above the level of your heart whenever you can, especially while resting or sleeping. This will help reduce the swelling and reduce the painful pressure on your knee joints.

a person rubbing a topical roll-on onto their knee

Over-the-Counter Medications

Combine the RICE treatment with some over-the-counter medications to knock out that lingering knee pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, commonly called NSAIDs, like ibuprofen or aspirin can be an effective way to relieve your knee pain and can be purchased without a prescription. Acetaminophen can also help to reduce pain and inflammation.

There are topical creams and ointments that can provide localized relief through capsaicin, menthol, or a combination of the two. Rubbing these topicals on the affected knee and massaging can provide pain relief quickly and easily. Just make sure you wash your hands before you rub your eyes.

Stretch it Out.

One of the main causes of knee pain while squatting is a lack of flexibility. Make sure to stretch out all the muscles in your legs, including the quads, calves, and hamstrings so that you keep your legs limber.

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Final Thoughts

Knee pain while squatting can put a damper not only on your workout but your entire day. Fortunately, now that you know what the causes of knee pain can be and how to prevent and treat it if necessary, you will be able to avoid most of the discomfort a painful knee can bring and get back out there and be active again.



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