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tranquilsea's avatar

Kneecap pain with stairclimbing and deep squats...causes?

Asked by tranquilsea (17760points) April 25th, 2011

I’m a fairly active person and four months ago I added free weights to my routine when I had to give up running. Part of my routine is doing a series of step ups (the step is 36 inches high) in between weight sets. My problem started when the step up became too easy and I added 30bls of weights. Cardiovascularly I handled the extra weight no problem. But my second day of the new routine my kneecaps started to ache midway through one of the sets of step ups.

I stopped doing them with weights and then I had a week off as we went on holidays. But my knees seem to be getting worse and not better. In my regular life of walking, squatting and stair climbing the knee pain is quite pronounced.

I’m at the point now where I’ll go see my doctor if it doesn’t start getting better soon.

My question is: what the heck could be causing this? I know it is directly related to adding the 30lbs of weights to the step ups. Any insights?

EDIT TO ADD: Very little pain with walking as long as I don’t squat down.

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17 Answers

SuperMouse's avatar

As soon as I read your question I thought of this story I heard this morning on NPR. It might provide some insight into your knee problem!

tranquilsea's avatar

Hm, I’m actually quite flexible after 10 years of yoga.

filmfann's avatar

You might have torn your median meniscus. Doctor time!
I tore mine 25 years ago. It still hurts to walk downhill.

auntydeb's avatar

Look up Chondromalacia Patellae. It’s a painful condition caused by a roughening of the cartilage at the back of the kneecap, where there should be a smooth surface. It is common in all age groups, (though especially affects quite youthful fit people), and mostly will go with time and the right sort of exercises. The identifier is that pain comes particularly from squatting or downward movements. Stop that!

Make sure you take some rest for a few days before gently doing just, say, stair-climbing. Don’t go putting excess weight into the joints until you have had them looked at by a doctor or sports Physiotherapist. The condition is not usually degenerative, but can get worse, if you keep doing the same things that caused it. There is probably a weakness there already – some people have particularly shallow knee joints – I have a friend with shallow knees (!) and I was diagnosed with CP about 20 years ago. Strengthening the thigh muscles helps, walking is the best exercise. Main thing is to get those knees looked at by someone who can properly identify the problem. Good luck.

rooeytoo's avatar

In my case I chalk up achy knees to old age. I used to be able to squat with no probs but now I have trouble getting down and just as much getting up. Maybe our knees are just wearing out and the extra 30 pounds is just too much.

tranquilsea's avatar

@rooeytoo My first though when I experienced the pain was “holy crap I’d better not gain 30 lbs ever!” I’m not that old (38) so I wasn’t expecting this kind of pain for a while.

I’m really, really hoping I can rest/physio this away as I love so many things that require bending my knees.

I know I aggravated it by lugging our laundry down stairs today, arg.

rooeytoo's avatar

@tranquilsea – I played hard tennis on hard courts for a lot of years plus a lot of running on the roads and around dog show rings from my 20’s to my 50’s. I always had some sort of ache or pain and I always ignored and worked through them. Now I am 66 and the situation is pretty much the same, when I start on a 10k run I ache but then when the muscles warm up I forget it and all is well. Tennis is a bit more difficult, I usually tape and wear braces. I can no longer squat to pick up balls though, I have to go down on one knee. So I wonder if I had gone easier on my knees when I was younger would they be in better shape than they are? I don’t know but my theory is kill or cure so I just keep going and hoping. I now run in the pool and swim on alternate days though so as not to overstress, I also take a couple of advil occasionally and use anti inflamatory creams. I don’t know if they help the condition but I like the way they smell and the warm feeling as well. There are also miracle patches I buy at the Asian grocery store that you can put on any sore area, I swear (and let’s hope shilolo isn’t listening because he will say it’s ridiculous) they take the pain away over night! Good luck and just don’t overdo (or gain 30 lbs, hehehe)

crisw's avatar

See a doctor. Ask for a referral to a specialist.

In my case, it was torn knee cartilage, which will not heal on its own. I was better than new after the operation.

cockswain's avatar

I have a pretty similar lifestyle and problem. In my case, my quads weren’t strong enough (which was a shock to my ego), and my kneecap was trying to move slightly upwards to compensate. Strengthening my quads always solves the problem. Slacking on the quad work always brings the problem back.

Rarebear's avatar

To disagree with @crisw (only because I rarely catch her in a mistake) any primary care physician worth her salt can diagnose basic knee pain with a basic history and physical—no specialist needed.

Frankly, your story is absolutely classic for patellofemoral syndrome
Take it easy.

tranquilsea's avatar

@cockswain prior to upping the weight on the step ups I had been working on my quadriceps for months slowly upping the weights. I think I just increased the weights a little too much on the step ups.

@Rarebear thanks for the info. It does sound that that may be what it is. I am a bit worried that after a 10 day cessation of the aggravating activity the pain is worse.

cockswain's avatar

I’d agree, but @Rarebear is the physician. I find when I play sports with lots of jumping is when I have the most trouble. That could be likened somewhat to 36” step ups with a dramatically increased weight.

Rarebear's avatar

@tranquilsea Take a look at that link and start some of the rehab exercises. I agree with @crisw that you should have it looked at.

crisw's avatar


Unfortunately, that wasn’t my experience at all (although perhaps my having an HMO contributed.)

My primary care physician said “just a sprain- rest it.” No X-rays, no MRI, nothing. When it didn’t go away after a couple of months, he said “Take NSAIDS.” Still no referral. I asked what else I could do, stating I was pretty sure I had a torn meniscus; he gave me a referral to physical therapy. The PT took one session, noted my instability and loss of muscle in that leg, and agreed I most likely had a torn meniscus, and that I certainly had something more severe than “just a sprain.” He convinced my doctor to get me a referral to an orthopedist, who sent me for an MRI- which showed what seemed to be a torn meniscus, but turned out to be shredded cartilage on the inside of my kneecap.

With the delay in seeing the orthopedist, the wait for the MRI, and the wait for the surgery, it took me over a year to get the problem fixed- a year in which I could barely walk.

Rarebear's avatar

@crisw Understood. But a torn meniscus is usually treated with physical therapy (I have one myself). I’m sorry you had a bad experience.

tranquilsea's avatar

I bruised my kneecaps. That sucks.

Anna737's avatar

could be a torn meniscus, get checked out; you may need an mri

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