Man doing kettlebell squats at the gym. He's wearing Bauerfeind's SofTec Genu Knee Brace to relieve knee pain

Squatting is part of many workout routines and everyday life. But while it should be a painless activity, there are some instances where it can cause discomfort in the knee. So, if you have knee pain when squatting, here are some potential causes and fixes.


What could be causing knee pain when you squat

Overuse injury. Patellar tendonitis (AKA Jumper’s Knee) and Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) are common causes of knee pain. Too much strain on these tendons creates micro-tears, leading to irritation, swelling, popping sounds, and pain. ITBS pain will be localised to the outside of the knee and may radiate into the hip. Patellar pain will usually be at the front of the knee. In most cases, your knee will just ache with movement and pressure, especially when you squat, lunge, or run up or down the stairs. In more severe cases, it may also hurt when you’re resting.

Acute injury. Tendon tears and ligament sprains can also make it hurt to squat. Even when these injuries are mild, they can cause discomfort when you move or put pressure on the leg, especially if you do so for a long period. Depending on the tissue affected, you’ll get pain in different areas of the knee. For example, an MCL sprain will affect the inner side of the knee and feel worse during a sumo squat. When a knee ligament sprain is severe, you likely won’t be able to squat at all due to intense pain, stiffness, and instability. 

A medical condition. In the early stages of knee arthritis, symptoms like pain and swelling come and go. Generally, they’ll be at their worst after a long period of rest or strenuous activity. 

Recurring injury. Whether you had tendonitis, a sprain, or a cartilage tear, not treating the injury correctly the first time around can make it act up again. 

Squatting wrong. It may also be the case that your squatting form is incorrect. A good squat distributes pressure into the thighs and glutes. A bad squat, meanwhile, puts pressure on the knees.

How to fix knee pain when squatting 

Squat correctly 

Woman on train tracks doing squats. She is doing so in the correct squat form to avoid knee pain

  1. Stand in front of a mirror to monitor your form. 
  2. Place your feet shoulder-width apart.
  3. Stretch your arms out in front of you for better balance throughout the squat. 
  4. Make sure your knees, hips, and toes all point forward.
  5. Squat down slowly as though you’re going to sit in a chair.
  6. Keep your back in a neutral position, your thighs parallel to the floor, and your heels firmly planted on the ground.
  7. Keep your glutes above knee level. You should only squat as far as is comfortable.
  8. Return to a standing position by pushing into your heels and tightening the buttocks.

Check your other activities 

There is absolutely such a thing as too much exercise. Pushing your body too hard, too fast, and too long can overwhelm the muscles, leading to increased pressure on tendons, ligaments and cartilage. 

So, if you’re feeling knee pain when squatting, consider whether you’ve recently increased your activity level. Did you add more weight to your deadlift? Are you running more Ks in the mornings? Did you start an exercise program that doesn't agree with you? If so, try taking it down a notch or two, add more rest days, and see how your knees feel. 


Get a knee brace

Man pulling on Bauerfeind's GenuTrain Knee Brace at the beach for his knee pain

GenuTrain Knee Brace


Medical-grade knee braces are a great way to combat pain and make exercising easier on your knees. Soft compression knit braces like our GenuTrain might not look like they’d be super supportive, but they’re great for combating pain from milder injuries and even early arthritis stages. Their built-in silicon pads actively massage affected areas to relieve pain. Their compression knit, meanwhile: 

  • Controls the adduction and abduction of the joint (essentially the inward and outward tilt), redistributing pressure away from painful areas. 
  • Activates the muscles so they can act as better supports for the joint. When you’re in pain, some nerve signals between the muscle and brain get interrupted, leading to worse proprioception and muscle activation. And ironically, this bodily response can lead to more pain. But compression knit fabric relieves pain and communicates with the muscle directly, minimising the effect.
  • And it stimulates blood flow, speeding up recovery and helping tense muscles relax.

However, you may need a rigid or semi-rigid knee brace for more severe injuries and medical conditions. Their splint, strapping, and padding construction will provide external support to the joint, helping relieve more pressure. Picking out the best knee brace for such cases can be tricky, though, since the level of support differs. 

Check out these resources to help you decide: 

Which Knee Brace is Best for a Ligament Injury? 

What’s the Best Knee Brace for Osteoarthritis? 



If you have an acute or overuse injury, take a couple of days to rest, ice, elevate the joint, and keep it compressed with a knit brace. These steps will help relieve any swelling around the area and let your injured tissues heal. 


Strengthen the knees

Exercise is one of the best remedies for joint pain. Your knees rely heavily on your leg muscles for support. So, when the support is inadequate, it can irritate the joint. To strengthen your knees and start doing pain-free squats, try: 

  • Mini Squats. They’re a less demanding version of the full squat and are a good way to work the same muscle groups without putting as much pressure on the knee.
  • Straight Leg Raises. These are great for working the quads, which are vital supports for your knee joint.
  • Glute Bridges. These work the hamstrings and glutes, which support your knees and your hips.


Seek specialist advice

It’s always good to get a professional assessment. Specialists like physiotherapists and osteopaths can assess your condition and provide an accurate diagnosis, which is the first step to properly addressing the cause of your pain. They can also:   

  • Recommend a specific exercise plan 
  • Massage out muscle tension 
  • Recommend any additional pain relief options like over-the-counter medications and steroidal injections.


To sum up

Acute injuries, overuse injuries, and improper form are common causes of knee pain when squatting. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to relieve it. Minding your form and activity levels, getting a good knee brace, and strengthening the joint are all good for relieving pain and preventing recurrence. 


If you require assistance selecting the right product for your needs or wearing the brace, call us on 098015660 or contact us via live chat.

Do you have private health? Most private health extras will cover Bauerfeind Products. Check to see if yours is included. Bauerfeind Private Health Insurance Inquiry.     

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