Effective Solutions for Knee Pain After Squats: Expert Tips

Effective Solutions for Knee Pain After Squats: Expert Tips


Experiencing knee discomfort after engaging in squats is a common complaint among individuals who perform physical activity. One prevalent cause of discomfort is patellofemoral pain syndrome, where pain emanates from the knee joint, particularly where the thigh bone meets the patella. Factors contributing to knee pain after squats can range from improper squat technique and muscle imbalances to overuse injuries.

Anatomy of the Knee and How it Relates to Squats

The knee is a complex hinge joint formed by the intersection of the femur (thigh bone), the tibia (shin bone), and the patella (knee cap), crucial for a range of daily activities. Its stability is maintained by ligaments, tendons, and surrounding muscles, including the powerful quadriceps at the front of the thigh and the hamstring muscles at the back. The gluteal muscles on the buttocks and the calf muscles also contribute to knee movement and stability.

During the squat, a proper knee bend engages the entire leg muscle group, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles. This movement relies on the synchronized function of the hip and ankle joints. Limited ankle mobility can lead to improper knee tracking over the toes, increasing the risk of injury.

Understanding Knee Pain

Understanding knee pain after engaging in physical activity like squats or even knee pain while squatting, can be crucial for maintaining healthy knee joints and continuing regular exercise. Knee pain is one of the most common complaints associated with squats, which are beneficial exercises when performed correctly.

Causes of Knee Pain Post-Squats:

  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: Discomfort around the knee cap when bending the knee, often due to overuse.
  • Muscle Imbalances: When certain leg muscles are weaker, causing stress on the knee.
  • Poor Squat Technique: Incorrect form can lead to sharp pain and strain on the knee.

It’s advisable to consult physical therapists for a tailored approach to prevent knee injuries. Remember, a well-executed squat with good form minimizes the risk of injury and can enhance the strength of your whole lower body.

Common Causes of Knee Pain After Squats

Squatting Incorrectly

One prevalent reason for knee pain after performing squats is incorrect squat technique. A proper squat involves maintaining the knees aligned over the feet and keeping the back straight throughout the exercise.

Weak Glute Muscles

Weakness in the gluteal muscles can contribute to knee pain because these muscles play a pivotal role in stabilizing the pelvis and thighs during a squat. If the gluteal muscles are not strong enough to perform this function effectively, additional pressure may be placed on the knee joint, leading to discomfort.

Limited Ankle Mobility

Limited mobility in the ankle joint can also lead to knee pain during squats. When the ankles are not flexible enough, it can be challenging to maintain proper form, causing compensations at the knee that may lead to pain.

Too Little Movement During the Day

Leading a sedentary lifestyle or engaging in too little movement throughout the day may increase the risk of experiencing knee pain after squats. The lack of physical activity can cause muscles to weaken and joints to become stiff, which can result in pain during more intense exercises like squatting.


Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that can affect the knee joint, particularly in older or overweight individuals, resulting in pain and stiffness after squats.

Knee Injuries

Knee Injuries, such as sprains, Patellofemoral Syndrome (often related to overuse or muscle imbalances), Patellar Tendonitis, and Meniscus Tears, are more direct causes of knee pain associated with squats.

A knee sprain involves stretched or torn ligaments, while Patellofemoral Syndrome results in pain surrounding the knee cap due to stress on the patella. Patellar Tendonitis is an inflammation of the patellar tendon, and a meniscus tear is an injury to the cartilage of the knee.

These conditions may all arise or be exacerbated by squatting, especially if done with poor form or excessive volume. Knee braces or sleeves may provide support and compression to help manage these conditions, but proper diagnosis and treatment from a healthcare professional are essential to a safe return to physical activity.

Symptoms of Knee Pain

If you are wondering “Why do my knees hurt after squats?” Here are some symptoms and diagnosis information that may help answer this question:

Symptoms of Knee Pain

  • Sharp pain during or after performing exercises like squats
  • Swelling or stiffness in the knee joint
  • Redness or warmth to the touch
  • Weakness or instability in the knee
  • Popping or crunching noises
  • Inability to fully straighten the knee

Expert Solutions for Knee Pain After Squats

Effective Solutions for Knee Pain After Squats: Expert Tips

When knee pain arises after performing squats, it’s a clear signal from the body requesting attention and care. Addressing this discomfort promptly can prevent further knee injuries and ensure the continuation of physical activity. Let’s explore various expert-recommended solutions to mitigate knee pain post-squats.

Stretching and Strengthening Method

To combat knee pain and prevent future issues, implementing a regime of stretching and strengthening exercises is crucial. These exercises enhance stability and support the knee joint by rectifying muscle imbalances.

  • Strengthening Exercises: Target the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteal, and hip muscles. For example, leg presses and bridges can bolster leg and hip strength without excessive knee bend.
  • Stretching Exercises: Aim to increase flexibility in leg muscles, which assists in decreasing the load on the knee joint. Calf stretches, hamstring stretches, and quadriceps stretches can be beneficial.
  • Mobility Work: Improving hip and ankle mobility can reduce undue stress on the knee. Incorporate exercises that enhance the range of motion in these joints to support proper squat technique.

Pain Management

For managing the immediate discomfort associated with knee pain, OTC medication like NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) can be effective. These can alleviate pain and reduce inflammation when used as directed.

In addition, ongoing compression with knee sleeves or braces can provide support during daily activities, further aiding in knee pain management.

Physical Therapy

Consulting with a physical therapist might unveil specific underlying issues such as patellofemoral pain syndrome, meniscus tear, or other common complaints. They can also guide you through:

  • Personalized Exercise Plans: Tailored to your body’s needs to address muscle imbalances and strengthen weak areas.
  • Manual Therapy: Techniques to mobilize the knee joint and surrounding tissues, enhancing healing.
  • Educational Guidance: Advice on proper squat technique and lifestyle changes to prevent recurring knee pain.

Physical therapy not only contributes to the recovery process but also educates patients on proactive measures to safeguard their knees during physical activity.

Tips to Prevent Knee Pain After Squats

Preventing knee pain after squats involves incorporating several smart training strategies to reduce the risk of injury and maintain the flexibility and strength necessary for this beneficial exercise. Consider these practical tips to keep your knee joints healthy and your squatting routine effective and pain-free.

Warm-up and cool-down

Properly warming up before engaging in squats prepares your muscles and joints for the range of motion required in the exercise, thus lowering the risk of injury. A good warm-up might include light cardio, such as cycling or brisk walking, followed by dynamic stretches that mimic the squatting motion. Cooling down is just as crucial; it aids in the gradual return of the heart rate to normal and assists in muscle recovery.

Flexibility and Mobility Work

Flexibility and mobility exercises shouldn’t be overlooked, as they directly impact your squat technique and, consequently, the health of your knees. Regularly practicing stretches that target the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles can improve flexibility, while mobility exercises for the hip, ankle, and knee joints ensure a proper range of motion.

Gradual Progression

A key strategy in preventing knee pain is to progressively increase the intensity and volume of your squats. Rushing to lift heavier weights or perform deeper squats without adequate preparation can overwhelm the knee joint and lead to injuries.

Listen to your body

Paying attention to the body’s signals is essential in avoiding knee pain. If you experience sharp pain or discomfort in the knee joint during or after squatting, it may indicate something is off in your routine.

Maintain a healthy weight

Excess body weight adds unnecessary stress to the knee joint during squats and other activities. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can alleviate this additional pressure and reduce the risk of knee pain.

Seek professional guidance

When in doubt, enlist the help of a physical therapist or certified fitness professional. These experts can provide guidance on squat technique, help identify and correct muscle imbalances, and create a personalized plan that incorporates all of the elements mentioned above. They can also provide advice on using supportive gear, like knee sleeves or braces, for those with a history of knee injuries or conditions such as patellofemoral pain syndrome.

When to seek medical Help?

If you’re experiencing knee pain after performing squats, it’s important to know when to seek medical attention. Here are clear indications that professional help is necessary:

  • Persistent pain: If your knee continues to hurt for several days without improvement, it’s time to consult a doctor.
  • Swelling: Noticeable swelling or inflammation in the knee joint that does not go away with rest and ice should be looked at by a healthcare provider.
  • Instability: A feeling of weakness or instability in the knee, like it might “give out,” warrants medical evaluation.
  • Reduced range of motion: Difficulty bending or straightening the knee, especially if it limits daily activities, needs professional assessment.
  • Sharp or severe pain: Any sharp, acute pain, especially when it occurs suddenly during the exercise, requires immediate medical attention.
  • Popping or crunching noises: If you hear or feel a pop in the knee during a squat or subsequent pain, seek medical advice as this could indicate a meniscus tear.

If experiencing any of the symptoms above, it’s advisable to pause your physical activities and schedule a visit with a healthcare professional.

Squat without Pain: How Can Continuous Physical Therapy Help You?

Continuous Motion PT in Goodyear, AZ, offers personalized and expert-guided solutions for knee pain post-squats and other physical discomforts. Our dedicated team employs tailored exercise plans, manual therapy techniques, and educational guidance to address muscle imbalances and strengthen weak areas, ensuring a safe and effective return to physical activity. With a focus on proactive measures to safeguard knee health, our comprehensive approach aims to promote pain-free movement and long-term well-being.


Squats are a powerful exercise for strengthening the lower body, particularly the quadriceps, gluteal muscles, and hip muscles. However, it’s not uncommon for individuals to experience knee pain after engaging in this physical activity, especially if they have pre-existing conditions like patellofemoral pain syndrome or muscle imbalances. Patience and proper squat technique are crucial to keep your knee joints safe and maintain a pain-free exercise routine.


Is it normal for knees to hurt after squats?

It is fairly common for individuals to experience some level of discomfort in their knees after performing squats, especially if they are new to the exercise or have an existing knee condition. Knee pain can arise from various reasons such as improper form, inadequate warm-up, or underlying knee injuries like a meniscus tear.

How do you relieve knee pain from squats?

Relieving knee pain from squats involves several strategies like the RICE protocol, modifying exercise routine, and physical therapy. By adopting these measures, you can mitigate knee pain and enhance your ability to perform squats with less discomfort.

Should I stop exercising if my knee hurts?

Not all knee pain requires you to stop exercising completely. Mild pain might be mitigated with modification and treatment, but consistent or severe pain is a signal to pause and seek professional guidance.

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Dr. Cameron Moore

PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Peyton Oules, PT, DPT Cert. DN

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Dr. Peyton Oules, physical therapist, is a Brewster, Washington native who grew up as a small-town athlete. During her high school sports career, she suffered from two ACL injuries which led her to pursue a career in physical therapy. 

She began her studies by earning her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science, Pre-PT at Eastern Washington University.  During her undergraduate studies, she spent much of her time playing volleyball and coaching at the high school level.  Dr. Oules continued her education to earn her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in Goodyear, Arizona.While in school, Dr. Oules became Certified in both Dry Needling and Myofascial Cupping.

Part of her clinical training included international travel to Sydney, Australia where she expanded her orthopedic skill set and had the opportunity to provide treatment for the athletes from the 2023 World Underwater Hockey Championships.

During her doctorate level studies, Dr. Oules learned the importance in making movement a lifestyle. She has a passion for sharing this knowledge with the community and getting her clients back to the activities they love.

Outside of the clinic Dr. Oules enjoys CrossFit®, hiking, traveling, and spending time outdoors with her dog, Rue. Some of her favorite adventures to date include hiking parts of the Grand Canyon and running across the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Sydney 10k!

Dr. Peyton Oules’ Credentials:
•           Physical Therapist (PT)
•           Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
•           Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)

Dr. Khristian McGinley, PT, DPT Cert. DN

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Dr. Khristian McGinley, physical therapist, grew up here in Phoenix, as a competitive softball player with a longtime passion for health and wellness. After sustaining an elbow injury in high school and attending PT herself, she knew that she wanted to pursue a career helping people recover from injuries and getting back to doing what they love. She eventually received her B.S in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Arizona in 2013, then earned her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2017.

Dr. McGinley began her career with a passion in pediatrics and orthopedics, undergoing coursework to treat diagnoses such as torticollis, developmental delay, and toe walking. She also became certified in Dry Needling in 2017, and since then has been additionally trained in Dry Needling for Pelvic Rehabilitation. After the challenging birth of her first child, she developed a passion for treating the pregnant and postpartum population. She became specialty training in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation in 2021 and since then has focused her practice on helping moms achieve pain free pregnancy, peaceful childbirth, and complete postpartum recovery. She specializes in diagnoses such as urinary incontinence, diastases recti, pelvic organ prolapse, and pelvic pain.

Outside of the clinic, Dr. McGinley enjoys hiking, running, camping, weight lifting, and playing slow pitch softball. She loves spending as much time as she can outside with her husband and two children.

Dr. Khristian McGinley’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Meredith Wall, PT, DPT FAFS, Cert. DN

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Dr. Meredith Wall, physical therapist, grew up as a competitive athlete in basketball, gymnastics, soccer and volleyball. After sustaining an ankle injury and going to rehab as a young athlete, she instantly fell in love with learning about sports injuries and rehabilitation. This led her to major in Exercises Science at Grand Valley State University. After she graduated in 2010, she immediately pursued physical therapy to ultimately achieve her lifelong goals of becoming a physical therapist. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Grand Valley State University in 2013, graduating as a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society recognizing individuals with outstanding GPA in a college graduate program.

Dr. Wall continued her educational pathway through the Gray Institute receiving a fellowship in Applied Functional Science (FAFS). A FAFS is only obtained by a select number of practitioners, who deliver optimal care through the diagnosis and treatment of functional human movement. She also became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN) in 2017, is trained in the McKenzie Method to treat spinal pain, and most recently has become specialized in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation. This specialty area allows her to treat women across the lifespan dealing with incontinence, diastasis recti, pelvic pain, and pain during or after pregnancy.

Dr. Wall’s special interests include diagnosing and treating active patients across the lifespan to help them return to optimal function. In her spare time, she enjoys Crossfit®, running, coaching youth sports, and traveling with her husband and three sons.

Dr. Meredith Wall’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of Applied Functional Science (FAFS)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Cameron Moore, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Cameron Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, has always been very active with sports and activities starting with competitive motocross racing up to a semi-professional level and being a scholarship athlete in track and field competing at the division 1 level in college at Eastern Washington University in the triple jump. Cameron became interested in the profession of physical therapy after having knee surgery in high school and seeing the inter-workings of the profession. He pursued his bachelors degree in Exercise Science before moving to Phoenix to earn his Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) from Franklin Pierce University.

He then began specialization courses for spinal manipulation (Spinal Manipulation Institute) and dry needling (Dry Needling Institute). This lead Cameron in to becoming a Fellow of the American Academy of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT) through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy (AAMT) and earned a Diploma of Osteopractic®, a distinction and training that only a small percentage of physical therapist have completed.

Dr. Moore continues to be very involved with motocross riding, Crossfit®, Olympic weight lifting, running and an overall active lifestyle with his Wife (Michelle) and their Vizsla (Parker).

Dr. Cameron Moore’s Credentials

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified in Dry Needling (Cert DN)
  • Certified in Spinal Manipulation (Cert SMT)
  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip Osteopractic)
  • Fellow Of The American Academy Of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT)
  • American Academy of Manipulative Therapy Fellow (AAMT)
  • Crossfit® Level 1 Certified (CF-L1)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified
  • USA Track and Field Level 1 Coach

Dr. Michelle Moore, PT, DPT FAAOMPT, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Michelle Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, grew up as a competitive gymnast and developed a passion for healthy living from a young age. Her collegiate studies in Health Education at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and athletic background influenced her to combine her passions and pursue a career in physical therapy. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2013.

Dr. Moore continued her educational pathway through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy where she earned her Diploma Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic) and became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN), and Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT). From 2016-2017 Dr. Moore completed the rigorous coursework to become a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy (FAAOMPT), a distinction held by only a fraction of the profession.

Dr. Moore’s special interests include treating active individuals and returning them to the activities that they love. In her spare time she enjoys Crossfit®, Olympic Weightlifting, mountain biking, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Cameron, and dog, Parker.

Dr. Michelle Moore’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists (FAAOMPT)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Certified Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified