About two years ago while training to compete in my first bodybuilding competition, I went to the doctor after experiencing knee pain when squatting. His sound advice? To stop squatting. Wow, what rocket science. Thanks Doc.
So what did I do? Well, I didn't listen to him. Why? Because I knew that when you execute the squat properly there should be no knee pain and in fact, squatting is proven to help reduce knee injury when done correctly. I knew there had to be another issue going on within my body. It wasn't my knee that was the problem.
I took matters into my own hands and started investigating the probable issue in my body that may have been causing me knee pain.
After about a month of incorporating more hip dominant movements into my program such as glute bridges, hydrants, donkey kicks, monster walks and NOT squatting; but instead doing things like the split squat (with a lean forward in the torso to make it more hip dominant which I discovered didn’t hurt the knee this way) allowed me to continue to build up my quads. Before every barbell split squat I made sure to do a lot of glute activation work with bands. I incorporated more foam rolling into my program every day as well.
Eventually, I was able to slowly make my way back to barbell back squats.
I began working my way up in weight by doing the box squat and squatting with a mini band around my knees so I always had a reminder to keep tension pushing outwards with my knees. My knee pain eventually seized. In fact, the pain had completely disappeared and within three months I was PR’ing in the box squat and had never felt better.
Had I listened to that doctor who advised me to stop squatting for the rest of my life, I would have never gotten better. The thing about that experience was that he offered no solution to my pain. Was he a specialized in sports injuries? No. Was he telling me something I didn't want to hear? Yes.
Any outsider would have thought I was being stubborn and naive but knowing what I know about the squat and understanding the biomechanics that go with it, I understood this was something that I could actually fix on my own. Many doctors who are not well versed in exercise, or any kind of sports related injury, so they may play it “safe” and tell you to stop doing the very thing that is causing you pain. I mean, when it comes down to it, it makes sense!
I recommend the following tips when you decide to listen to your body, and not your doctor.
- Get a second opinion. Doctors are human and humans make mistakes. It’s always a good idea to get a second opinion on things before making a solid decision.
- Go to a doctor specifically for your injury or issue. Make sure you are seeing someone who specializes in what your issue may be.
- Do your homework. Ask around for the best of the best person to go see. Make sure they are well reversed and respected in their field. Sites like ZocDoc are great places to look for doctors! You can read about them and view their ratings from other patients.
- Be as specific as you can when reporting the details to them. If you give them half the story or tell them information that may not be accurate, you may not get a correct response or remedy to treat your issue. Take notes before you get there, so you can give as much detail as you can and they should be able to help you to the best of their ability.