Fix Knee Pain While Squatting

Posted on 24. May, 2011 by in Injuries / Rehab

Fix Knee Pain While Squatting

A lot of athletes, especially those in their thirties and beyond, experience joint pain as a result of their chosen sport or activity.

This can take several forms but ranges in intensity from stiffness first thing in the morning as you stump around to make your coffee to a more nagging and persistent pain that accompanies the activity itself.  Many strength athletes, in particular, experience knee pain that is usually associated with squatting and deadlifting.

So, what if anything is to be done about it?

First the good news, joint pain is NOT a required component of an athletic lifestyle.  The human body was not desired to just hurt.  Pain is not the price of athleticism and you can rest assured that if something hurts then something is wrong.

What’s even better is if there is something wrong (barring a physical impairment like a bone deformity, rheumatoid arthritis, or something of the like) YOU are the one who can fix it.

Now the bad news, it takes effort and only YOU can fix it.

Joint pain is the result of a lack of an instantaneous axis of rotation.  Say it with me, “instantaneous axis of rotation.”

That means the bones of the joint are not operating in their ideal plane of movement.  One or the other bones is slightly out of whack as compared to the other.  This causes a shearing force and can cause irritation amongst the soft tissues surrounding the joint.  This in turn sets you up for inflammation and what is referred to as the “pain cycle.”

What’s important to know here is that the pain is due to a misalignment of the moving parts.  This is usually due to weak stabilizer muscles and a hyper tonicity or overdevelopment of the major muscles.

This is often the side effect of body building type routines that focus on isolating certain muscle groups in order to exercise them.

Regardless of how you got there, you can be fairly certain that your knee pain is a result of faulty movement patterns.  Through performing movements in a less than ideal way the body sets up neural connections that reinforce that less than ideal movement.

The reason that we practice certain movements over and over again in order to get better at them is because of these neural connections.  The more times we perform a certain movement, the stronger the neural connections for that movement become.  Thus by practicing a less than ideal movement over and over again we are basically getting better at making that bad movement.

So, how do we fix it?

The key is to re-educate your muscles and fix your movement patterns.  The first step is to determine and eliminate areas of hyper tonicity or muscle tightness.  Common culprits are hamstrings and IT bands.

You could pay a massage therapist $70 an hour to identify and work those areas or you could invest in a foam roller and work it out yourself.  Focus on the tender spots.  If it hurts, you can bet that you’re tight there and that’s where you need to hang out.

Next, is correcting the way your body recruits muscles to perform movements.

If you’ve been doing lost of isolation movements or doing machine based workouts you can be sure that your stabilizers are not very efficient at doing their job.  For a period of six weeks or more, begin doing unilateral movements.

That means exercises based on one side of the body independent of the other.  Examples include: single legged toe touches or single legged deadlifts, lunges and Bulgarian split squats, or simply balancing on one leg for an extended period of time.

By now you’re probably saying, “Yo Elliott, isn’t this the kind of training you make fun of?”

To which I say, yes.

But there is a time and a place for everything and if you are experiencing knee pain, then these are the movements that will help you re-learn to recruit your stabilizer muscles.  They will teach you to regain that instantaneous axis of rotation and realign your bones into their optimal planes of movement.

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