I recently had a very active patient in her early 60’s with complaints of pain in both knees when she performed stairs, walked downhill, and when she moved from sit to stand after sitting for prolonged periods of time. This pain was beginning to affect her ability to be active and ultimately cause her to question her decision to participate in a very physically challenging vacation she was very much looking forward to later this year. After thoroughly assessing her posture, gait, and lower extremity strength, I gave her a few non-weight bearing exercises that she easily accomplished so we moved to the bar to check out her squatting mechanics. It was here that she told me her doctor said she should NEVER do squats.
Honestly, I was quite baffled by this and proceeded to explain to her the following:
Squats may be the most functional and beneficial lower body exercise an individual can perform. Think about how many times you perform some sort of squat throughout your day without thinking about it from getting in and out of your car, getting on and off the toilet, picking up your children, going up and down stairs (a modified single leg squat), etc. Most Americans spend over half their day sitting at work, in their car, and watching television. The amount of time we spend sitting increases as we age while our activity level goes down. Therefore, stiffness in our joints and weakness in our lower extremities increase causing a vicious cycle leading to more a sedentary lifestyle. Squats can counteract this decline by activating your gluteals, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves.
First, have someone look above the knee when you squat to check your form. If your knees are caving in or your pelvis drops on one side as compared to the other, you may need to strengthen your hips specifically the gluteus medius muscle. Performing a side-lying clamshell exercise is a great place to start. Next, look below the knee at your ankle joint. You may have great lower extremity strength overall but limited range of motion in the ankle will cause poor form a you try to get deeper into your squat. You may require manual therapy, joint mobilization and soft tissue mobilization, from a qualified physical therapist to improve your ankle mobility.
If you still have discomfort when performing squats, you may need to modify your program. You can start by sitting in a chair, feet hip width apart, and move to stand (with or without the use of your hands to push up). Keep your weight in your heels and do not let your knees go past your toes. Return to a seated position. Repeat 10 times. If this proves too difficult, you may need further modifications to non-weight bearing exercises such as seated leg extensions or straight leg raises in supine lying position.
If your knee pain is limiting your ability to participate in the activities you love whether it be hiking with your friends for exercise, walking through Disney with your grandkids on vacation, carrying your children upstairs for bedtime stories, or running that 5K for you New Year’s Resolution, IT IS TIME to call BREAKAWAY PHYSICAL THERAPY and have one of our 4 highly skilled physical therapists devise a program that works best for you and encompasses YOUR goals in the new year.
Skeptical??? No worries--Call 401-722-6333 to book a FREE 30-minute one-on-one consultation and let us answer your specific questions.
We look forward to meeting and SERVING YOU soon!