June 09, 2021 10 min read
Have you ever noticed one or both of your knees buckling unusually inwards when you squat? If so, then pay attention because you could be dealing with a potentially debilitating condition called knee valgus.
Knee valgus can cause a cascade of pain and injuries that keep you out of the gym and stunt your lifting progress. Protect yourself now by following our guide to knee valgus prevention.
Even if you’ve never heard the term knee valgus before, odds are that you’ve seen it. Commonly referred to as knock knees and scientifically as genu valgum, knee valgus is a misalignment condition in which the knees visibly buckle or bend inwards.
You’ll notice it in someone else when their knees point towards each other as they're standing up straight or squatting down.The inward bending of the knees is caused by an internal rotation of the hips. That rotation leads to caving of the femurs and the knees subsequently pointing towards one another. This cascade of reactions can be caused by one of two things:
While you can prevent and correct tight, week, and misaligned muscles, you cannot necessarily treat or correct anatomical deformities. However, you can do certain exercises and stretches to ease knee valgus symptoms caused by deformities.
If you do suffer from knee valgus due to muscular problems, it's very important to do what you can to treat it early.
Left untreated, knee valgus can set off a whole plethora of other problems such as:
So, if you're currently struggling with knee valgus or want to prevent it in the first place, then keep reading on for practical tips on how to keep the condition at bay.
It’s typically pretty easy to spot knee valgus because the primary symptom is visible caving in of the knees. You can spot it in yourself by simply standing up straight with your legs together while looking in the mirror; if your knees touch one another but there is a large gap in-between your ankles, then you may be dealing with knee valgus.
Note that everyone has a natural, slight inward curve of the knees that is not to be confused with knee valgus!
If you do notice that your knees are caving inward, ask yourself if you're experiencing one of these other common symptoms:
If you're experiencing one or more of these symptoms along with caving of the knees, then the next step would be to see a physical therapist or orthopedic doctor for a formal diagnosis. They will come up with a plan for you to manage and correct the symptoms if possible.
The most important thing is to not ignore your symptoms! The last thing you want is to have the problem progress up to an osteotomy, ACL injury, or even a knee replacement.
To really understand knee valgus including how to prevent and correct it, it's important to have a basic understanding of the muscle groups that support and stabilize the knee. Without their support, the knees would misalign and cave inwards.
These muscle groups include the:
To start, the hip muscles including the abductors and adductors as well as the internal and external rotators are some of the most important muscles in your body. If they're not strong, flexible, and able to reach their full ranges of motion, a whole cascade of injuries and problems can come as a result. In terms of knee valgus, strong hip muscles provide femoral support so that the knees don't go caving in.
The most important muscles within the hip muscle groups include the:
Second, muscles in the upper and lower legs including the quads, hamstrings, and calves all play a role in keeping the knees properly aligned. Like the hip muscles, if these leg muscles aren't strong and flexible, they won't be able to properly support your knees.
Third, your ankles and feet play a big role in the development of knee valgus. Specifically, lack of ankle mobility or inability to flex the feet is likely to lead to valgus. While these two body parts aren't typically recognized in the gym, it's important to make sure that they're strong and flexible.
As we mentioned above, knee valgus develops either from anatomical deformities or weak, tight or misaligned muscles and ligaments in the lower body. Any of these conditions can eventually lead to poor stability and misalignment of the knees which is likely to result in knee valgus.
The best way to prevent knee valgus is to strengthen and stretch your lower body muscles as well as make certain lifestyle changes. And, if you already have knee valgus due to muscle problems, these exercises and stretches can be corrective. If you've ever been to physical therapy before to treat knee problems, then many of these exercises and stretches should look familiar to you!
Probably the best way to prevent knee valgus is to do strengthening exercises targeting your hip, glute, and thigh muscles. When these areas are strong, you’ll prevent malalignment in your legs by keeping your knees locked directly under your hips.
Overly tight muscles are another very common cause of knee valgus. Tight muscles prevent the muscles intended to support the knee from functioning to their fullest extent. As a result, other muscles overcompensate which leads to knee valgus.
To prevent the muscles that support the knees from tightening up, do these stretches regularly:
In addition to adjusting your strength training and stretching routines, you should also try and make certain lifestyle changes to prevent knee valgus deformity. Not only that, but they'll also lead to an overall healthier and stronger body.
Protect yourself from knee valgus by strengthening and stretching your muscles while also making some healthy lifestyle changes. That way, you prevent yourself from developing a potentially debilitating injury that keeps you out of the gym for the long term.
Bonus tip:Want to do even more to protect yourself from knee valgus? Then give our top hamstring exercises a try!