Knee pain during sport: causes, what to do?


Exercises like squats or lunges cause knee pain. How to exercise without knee pain? What sports to avoid? Prioritize? Advice with Dr Laurent Aumont, sports doctor.

Most sporting activities strain the knees and can cause pains in the muscles and joints of this part of the body. What are the causes of these pains? How exercise without knee pain ? What favor sports to strengthen my knees? What can I replace squats and lunges with? How relieve knee pain after a session ?Practical advice with Dr Laurent Aumont, sports doctor.

What are the causes of knee pain during sports?

Knee pain during sports depends on age, physical condition and sex of the person.

► « the patellofemoral syndrome is the most common cause of knee pain, it causes pain around the kneecap (or patella). The patella transmits the force of the thigh to the leg as soon as one pushes (jumping, running, cycling). This pain is more common in young people after puberty and in women since it is partly linked to the morphotype: women have a wider pelvis which tends to suck the patella outwards during muscle contractions and create instability and friction“says Dr. Laurent Aumont.

► The second most common cause of knee pain involves the meniscus and cartilage and occurs more in the middle of life. The meniscus is a kind of half-moon shaped wedge that holds the knee in place to prevent it from dislocating while allowing movement.

► The third cause relates to micro traumatic pathologies like windshield wiper syndrome.

► Finally, we find the traumatic pain related to, among other things, cruciate ligaments, meniscal lesions, fractures, etc.

If you have knee pain, it’s not normal

« To play sports without hurting your knee, you have to decrease the intensity and gradually adapt the training to your joints and muscles » supports the sports doctor. The yoga exercises for example are achievable in multiple ways: according to the intensity, the load, the articular amplitude. In any case, if you feel pain in your knee it is not normal. “You have to adapt the exercise by reducing the load. It’s important to consider his age. As you get older, your abilities decrease and seeking performance without taking technique into account is dangerous. » warns Dr. Aumont. If the pain persists, it is interesting to consult a physiotherapist to carry out rehabilitation sessions in order to find the exercises adapted to each profile.

« In case of pain after a sports session, put ice and elevate the leg will relieve your knees“advises Dr. Aumont.”If joint pain is severe the day after a session, it will be necessary decrease the load in the next training“adds the sports doctor.

Which sport to strengthen the knees?

« All sports causing knee pain have the paradoxical advantage of soliciting and strengthening the muscles of the thighs which control the joint and guide the patella. These are therefore the sports stressful for the patella which improve the stabilization of the knee » says Dr. Aumont. For instance :

  • them forced flexion sports (squats, lunges, cross fit)
  • them jumping sports (jumping jacks)
  • them racing sports intensively

Conversely, swimming is a sport in discharge, that is to say that there is no load of body weight. It strengthens the thighs but without impact. « It is therefore necessary to find a balance between impact sports to be practiced at low intensity and discharge sports such as cycling or biathlon. still advocates Dr. Aumont.

In case of knee pain, it is not necessary to stop the sport

What sport to avoid when your knee hurts?

« No sport should be systematically avoided, except in the presence of cardiac pathology or injuries“replies our interlocutor straight away.”In case of knee pain, you do not have to stop your sports activity. We will rather move towards physiotherapy to be accompanied. Physical activities that require the knees must be adapted: the training load is regulated via intensity and volume. And we’re going gradually » develops Dr. Aumont.

Why do my knees hurt when I do squats?

« In 90% of cases, knee pain during a squat is related to the kneecaps. When performing a squat, pressure is exerted on the femur and the friction between the cartilages creates inflammation. » emphasizes our expert. Pain is often caused by:

  • a too much pressure on the joints (excessive weight for example)
  • a misalignment knees (they must not exceed the toes)
  • a pace too high too fast

You must not forget to stand straight, tighten the abdominal strap (tuck in your belly) and bring your shoulder blades together when performing the squat.

What to replace squats and lunges when your knees hurt?

We can start by lightening the lunges and squats removing the weights and decreasing the intensity. If we want to replace them, we diversify the activities on devices such as the elliptical trainer, the rower or even jogging and training circuits.

Thanks to Dr Laurent Aumont, sports doctor at IMS Prefontaine, ex-doctor of the professional section of Paris Saint-Germain football.

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