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Olivia Lawson - Jul 12, 2023 - 7 min read - 1k Likes

Why Does My Knee Click When I Squat? Find Out the Reasons Here

Do you wonder why does my knee click when I squat? Does it leave you confused about what could be causing it? In this article, we will explore the possible reasons behind knee clicking during squats and provide tips on how to address it.

Understanding Knee Anatomy

Before discussing knee clicking during squats, it’s important to understand the basic anatomy of the knee joint. The knee is a hinge joint that connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia).

The patella, or kneecap, sits at the front of the knee joint and slides up and down a groove in the thigh bone as the knee bends and straightens. This movement is facilitated by the patellar tendon, which connects the patella to the shin bone.

The knee joint is lined with cartilage, which provides a smooth surface for the bones to glide over during movement. Ligaments, including the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), provide stability to the knee joint and prevent excessive movement or twisting.

Knee Joint Movements

The knee joint is capable of four main movements: flexion (bending), extension (straightening), internal rotation, and external rotation. In a squat, the knee joint undergoes flexion and extension movements.

During a squat, the quadriceps muscles at the front of the thigh contract to straighten the knee joint and lift the body back up. The hamstrings muscles at the back of the thigh contract to bend the knee and lower the body down. A number of other muscles, including the glutes and calves, also play a role in the squatting motion.

Understanding the movements of the knee joint and the muscles involved in squats is crucial in understanding why the knee may click during this exercise.

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Common Causes of Knee Clicking

Why Does My Knee Hurts When I Squat

There are a variety of reasons why your knees may be clicking during squats. In this section, we will explore some of the most common causes of knee clicking and explain how they can contribute to the problem.

Meniscus Tear

A meniscus tear is a common knee injury that can lead to clicking during squats. The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that acts as a cushion between the shinbone and thighbone. When this cartilage is torn, it can cause a clicking or popping sensation in the knee.

Other symptoms of a meniscus tear may include pain, swelling, and stiffness in the knee. Treatment for a meniscus tear may include rest, ice, physical therapy, or surgery depending on the severity of the tear.

Patellar Tracking Disorder

Patellar tracking disorder refers to a misalignment of the kneecap as it moves in the groove of the thighbone. This can occur due to muscle imbalances, weak hip muscles, or overuse injuries. When the kneecap is not tracking properly, it can create a clicking or popping sensation during movements like squats.

Treatment for patellar tracking disorder may include strengthening exercises for the hip and thigh muscles, physical therapy, and rest to allow the knee to heal.

Cartilage Wear and Tear

As we age, the cartilage in our joints can begin to wear down. This can also occur due to overuse injuries or repetitive movements like squatting. When the cartilage in the knee joint begins to wear down, it can lead to a clicking or popping sensation in the knee.

Treatment for cartilage wear and tear may include rest, physical therapy, and in some cases, surgery to repair or replace damaged cartilage.

Next, we will explore the role of muscle imbalances and hip instability in causing knee clicking during squats.

Muscle Imbalances and Knee Clicking

Muscle imbalances can be a contributing factor to knee clicking during squats. Specifically, a strength imbalance between the quadriceps and hamstrings can put undue stress on the knee joint, leading to clicking sounds and discomfort.

Weak hip stabilizing muscles can also contribute to knee clicking. When these muscles are weak, the knee is not properly supported during movements like squats, leading to increased stress and strain on the joint.

Addressing Muscle Imbalances

To address muscle imbalances, it is important to incorporate exercises that target both the quadriceps and hamstrings. This can include exercises like lunges, leg curls, and deadlifts.

Strengthening the hip stabilizing muscles can also be helpful. Exercises like glute bridges, single-leg glute bridges, and side-lying leg lifts can help to improve hip stability and reduce strain on the knee joint during squats.

Overtraining and Knee Clicking

Overtraining and lack of rest can lead to knee clicking during squats. When we exercise beyond our body’s limits or fail to give it enough rest, we can put excessive strain on our joints, leading to overuse injuries such as knee clicking. Overtraining is often caused by a lack of variation in a workout routine, leading to the repetitive use of the same muscles and movements.

A lack of rest can also cause knee clicking. Without adequate rest, our joints do not have sufficient time to recover and repair themselves. Over time, this can lead to damage to the knee joint, soft tissue, and surrounding muscles, causing pain and clicking during squats.

It is important to listen to your body and give it enough rest between workouts to prevent knee clicking. Rest days allow the body to recover and repair itself, helping to prevent overuse injuries such as knee clicking.

Improper Technique and Knee Clicking

Proper squat technique is crucial for preventing knee clicking during squats. Incorrect form, knee alignment, and foot positioning can all contribute to the problem. Here are some tips to correct these issues and reduce knee clicking:

  • Check your form: Ensure your feet are shoulder-width apart, your knees are in line with your toes, and your back is straight. A mirror or a qualified trainer can help you correct your form.
  • Align your knees: Make sure your knees are tracking over your toes throughout the squat. Avoid letting your knees collapse inward or outward.
  • Adjust your foot position: Try altering your foot angle slightly to see if it reduces knee clicking. A slightly wider stance or turning your toes outward may help.
  • Reduce weight: If you are experiencing knee clicking, lighten the weight and focus on perfecting your form before adding weight again.

Remember that proper form is crucial for safe and effective squats. Take the time to correct any technique issues to reduce knee clicking and prevent injury.

Addressing Knee Clicking: Prevention and Treatment

If you’re experiencing knee clicking during squats, it’s crucial to take preventative measures to avoid further injury. Below are some tips to help you manage knee clicking during squats:

Warm-up exercises

Before starting any exercise routine, it’s important to warm up your muscles. A proper warm-up routine can help increase blood flow and flexibility in the knee joint, reducing the risk of knee clicking. Consider incorporating exercises such as leg swings, lunges, and squats with no weight prior to your workout.


Stretching can help improve flexibility and range of motion, which can be beneficial in preventing knee clicking. Focus on stretching your quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors before and after your workout. Remember to hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds and avoid overstretching.

Strengthening exercises

Strengthening exercises can help improve muscle imbalances and stabilize the knee joint, reducing the risk of knee clicking during squats. Focus on exercises that target the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Leg presses, lunges, and step-ups are all great exercises to include in your routine.

Rest and recovery

Rest and recovery are just as important as exercise when it comes to managing knee clicking. Make sure to give your body enough time to recover and avoid overtraining. Listen to your body and take breaks when necessary.

Remember, it’s always better to take a break and let your body recover than to push through pain and risk further injury.

Modify your squat

If knee clicking persists despite taking preventative measures, consider modifying your squat form. Try using a wider stance, reducing the depth of your squat, or using a different type of squat such as a box squat or front squat. These modifications can help reduce stress on the knee joint and alleviate knee clicking.

Consult a professional

If knee clicking persists despite your efforts to prevent it, consult a physical therapist or orthopedic specialist. They can help diagnose the underlying cause of the knee clicking and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

By taking preventative measures and modifying your exercise routine, you can manage knee clicking and avoid further injury during squats. Remember to listen to your body and seek professional help if necessary.

Seeking Professional Help for Persistent Knee Clicking

If knee clicking persists despite self-care measures, it is recommended to consult a physical therapist or orthopedic specialist. These healthcare professionals have specialized training and experience in diagnosing and treating knee injuries and conditions.

During an evaluation, your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history, as well as perform a physical exam of your knee. They may also order imaging tests such as an X-ray or MRI to get a better look at the internal structures of your knee.

Based on the results of the evaluation, your healthcare provider will determine the underlying cause of your knee clicking and recommend an appropriate course of treatment. This may include physical therapy exercises to strengthen the muscles around your knee, rest and ice to reduce inflammation, or in severe cases, surgery to repair damaged cartilage or other structures.

It is important to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions carefully and attend all appointments as scheduled. Ignoring persistent knee clicking can lead to worsening symptoms and further damage to your knee joint, making it harder to treat in the future.

Tips for Squatting Safely with Clicking Knees

If you experience knee clicking during squats, it is important to take precautionary measures to avoid further damage and ensure safe workouts. Here are some practical tips to follow:

  • Modify your squats: If you experience clicking during traditional squats, consider trying different variations that may put less stress on your knees. For example, you could try box squats, goblet squats, or front squats.
  • Use knee sleeves: Knee sleeves can provide extra support to your knees during squats. They can help reduce pain and discomfort, and provide added stability to the joint.
  • Monitor pain levels: Pay close attention to any discomfort or pain you experience during squats. If the clicking is accompanied by pain, it may be a sign that you need to take a break and let your knees recover before continuing.
  • Stretch and warm up: Proper stretching and warm-up exercises before your workout can help prevent knee clicking and injury. Focus on stretching your quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors, as these muscles play a significant role in squatting.
  • Strengthen supporting muscles: Weak hip stabilizing muscles can contribute to knee clicking. Incorporating exercises that target these muscles, such as clamshells and leg lifts, can help improve your overall squatting technique and reduce clicking.

Remember, it is important to listen to your body and take necessary steps to prevent further injury. Following these tips can help you continue to squat safely and effectively, even with clicking knees.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions about Knee Clicking when Squatting

Q: What causes the clicking sound in my knees when I squat?

A: The clicking sound you hear may be due to a variety of factors, including cartilage wear and tear, patellar tracking disorder, and muscle imbalances. See sections 3 and 4 for more information.

Q: Should I stop squatting if I experience knee clicking?

A: It depends on the severity of the clicking and any associated pain. If you experience pain or discomfort, it’s recommended that you stop squatting until the issue is resolved. See section 7 for tips on prevention and treatment.

Q: Can knee clicking be reversed?

A: It depends on the underlying cause of the knee clicking. In some cases, self-care measures such as stretching, strengthening exercises, and rest can alleviate the problem. In more severe cases, medical intervention may be necessary. See section 8 for more information.

Additional Questions

Q: Is knee clicking always a cause for concern?

A: Not necessarily. In some cases, knee clicking may be harmless and not indicative of any serious issue. However, if you experience pain or discomfort, it’s important to address the issue promptly to prevent further damage. See section 7 for more information.

Q: Can I continue squatting if I experience knee clicking?

A: It depends on the severity of the issue and any associated pain. If you experience pain or discomfort, it’s recommended that you stop squatting until the issue is resolved. See section 9 for tips on squatting safely with clicking knees.

Q: Are knee sleeves helpful in preventing knee clicking?

A: Knee sleeves can provide support and help alleviate knee pain, but they may not necessarily prevent knee clicking altogether. See section 9 for more information.

Olivia Lawson - Author

Dr. Olivia Lawson is a renowned orthopedist dedicated to providing exceptional care and expertise in the field of orthopedic medicine. With over 15 years of experience, Dr. Lawson has gained a reputation for her compassionate approach, exceptional surgical skills, and commitment to patient-centered care.

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