As with so many other questions in health & medicine, it depends on a:
the kind of knee pain you have (the condition) and b: the kind of
squat you do (the intervention). Here are some resources that may
help you decide whether squats (and what kind of squats) are
appropriate for you. You should also talk to your doctor, who may
refer you to a physical therapist for specific exercises.
McKinley Health Center: Overuse Knee Injuries
Describes different knee injuries (largely by where the pain is
located), with suggested exercises. The exercises are nicely
described and illustrated, as well.
Stumptuous.com: Learning to Squat
While I was at first skeptical of this page (I have a thing for
authority, accuracy, bias, and currency in my references), it actually
looks like a well-reasoned, supported piece of writing. I learned a
lot about proper squat technique, etc., and am sure you will too. The
author is a PhD in women's studies, specialist in women in technology,
and a weight trainer (thus the squat technique pages).
Finally, here's an article from the American College of Sports
Medicine (note: PDF file):
Safety of the Squat Exercise
"Thus, squats do not negatively affect knee stability."
I found these sites by doing a search of the Google search engine for
"knee AND squat". Please let me know if I can clarify or expand on
anything (preferably before rating the answer).
Clarification of Answer by
02 Sep 2005 13:16 PDT
As I said before, the plusses and minuses of squatting depend on your
body weight and type, and posture when squatting (heels up or down,
leaning forward or back, amount of weight held or not held) and is
best evaluated by your doctor.
I did find this study which indicates that prolonged squatting in
youth may be linked to osteoarthritis of the knee in old age:
People with patellofemoral pain (formerly called chondromalacia, I am
told) should avoid squatting:
If you are a gardener you should try to kneel or sit, rather than
squat to weed: http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/envirohort/426-065/426-065.html
("Squatting can put unnecessary strain on the knees if done
incorrectly or for long periods of time. ")
However, you need to talk to your physician and/or a physical
therapist before taking any firm conclusions from this. Note that
even if you're not "lifting weights" when you squat, your knees are
still holding up the weight of your body. The exercises from the
McKinley Health Center do not use weights and recommend specific
exercises for specific knee injuries. I'd take another look at that
link and see if it helps.