Pain in thighs just above the knee from wall squats

by Joseph
(Montreal, Canada)

Mr. Tucker,

I'm glad I stumbled across your site; you are doing great work here, thanks.

I'm a male, 190 pounds, six-two. I have been fairly active all my life, including running marathons.

Over this past summer I decided to do some strength training at home, so I devised a program of pullups, dips, etc.

I wanted to do weighted squats but obviously without equipment it was impossible. After some experimenting, I came up with a replacement exercise, basically a one-legged squat while leaning back against a wall, sliding up and down against it.

I had good results with the exercise and no pain other than DOMS, ie a bit of muscle stiffness in the quads in the days following each session.

Then I began to add weight in the form of a backpack. I kept adding more. After a while I realized what I thought was the usual muscle stiffness that would fade in a few days, would not go away.

I stopped doing the squats immediately. I have been off them for a little more than a month now.

But my thighs are still in pain, big-time.

I don't know if I have injured the tendons or some other structure. The pain feels deep in the muscle just above the knee but not in the knee joint itself. It hurts to squat past parallel. If I sit for a long time with bent legs it gets really stiff and sore.

I am worried that this could become chronic. Will it go away if I just leave off my homemade squats or should I see a professional?
--Thanks in advance.


Joshua Answers:

Hello Joseph.

A few questions first to see if this is Tendonitis, or just a Tendonitis dynamic.

1. How often did you do these wall squats?

2. How 'bad' is the pain? Please describe in greater detail. Is it dull achey, sharp, burney, shooting, etc, and what does it feel like at rest as opposed to activity?

3. Overall nutrition?

4. History of injury or Tendonitis?

I'm happy you have no pain in your joint. That's good.

I doubt you'll need to go see a professional, though an expert massage therapist might be a good idea.

But for the most part, you can self-care this kind of thing at home once you know how and if you are willing to spend the time and effort in 'fixing' it.

I'll have some good stuff for you.

Answer the above, and let's go from there.

Please reply using the comment link below. Do not submit a new submission to answer/reply, it's too hard for me to find where it's supposed to go.

And, comments have a 3,000 character limit so you may have to comment twice.

Joshua Tucker, B.A., C.M.T.
The Tendonitis Expert

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Nov 21, 2009
PART 2 - More detail on thigh pain - Pain in thighs just above the knee from wall squats
by: Joseph

Mr. Tucker,
Sorry for not getting back sooner. If the site sent an email alert I must have missed it. Anyway, it's been another eight weeks of thigh pain and no noticeable change.

To answer your questions:

1. I did these wall squats three times a week, five sets of five reps each side. And that went on for maybe six months. The pain only began when I started ramping up the weight.

2. The pain is sharp. It is very similar to the pain of muscle stiffness the next day after a hard workout except maybe a bit sharper, a bit more stabbing, and of course it never goes away.

It hits when I squat down to horizontal. It hits just above the knees in the same place on both sides.

When the leg is at right angles bearing my weight, it hurts. The pain zone is in a band about twelve inches long from the top of the knee up, and all the way around but sharper in the middle and closer to the knee, sharpest in the 'teardrop' part of the muscle. The muscles here feel tight when I press on them when relaxed and there's a tube-shaped lump in the right one that pops around when I dig in.

The passive pain from just sitting with bent legs, ie. in a movie theatre, comes on after about a half hour. It's a dull throbbing pain and when I stand my legs are really stiff. The dull throbbing pain makes me want to straighten my legs out real quick.

3. My nutrition. I used to consume a lot of milk but have recently cut that out. I avoid crappy simple carbs like sugar and refined stuff. I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, a ton of nuts. Meat and fish and eggs. No dairy at the moment. Have tried bone broth once in a crock pot but haven't gotten back to it.

4. History of injuries. A few years ago after a marathon I had ITB syndrome on the left side and had to lay off the running while going for massage and ultrasound. I think it took a couple of months to resolve and didn't bother me again.

The summer before last I pulled a muscle in the groin from doing sprints. That seemed to go away by itself after some weeks although I sometimes get a bit stiff there after sprints.

I also want to add that my current training includes hindu squats till mild fatigue as a warm-up, then light deadlifts followed by upper bod stuff - three times a week. As well as twice weekly short (5K) runs with sprints thrown in.

It's funny but the pain gets less with exercise.

Right after a workout it feels almost fine. It gets worse when the legs have been inactive, like first thing in the morning or after sitting for a long time. Stiffness seems to set in.

Hope this detail helps and sorry again for the delay. I appreciate your response very much and will be checking back here.

Take care,
Joseph Green

Nov 27, 2009
PART 3 - Pain in thighs just above the knee from wall squats
by: The Tendonitis Expert

Joshua Comments:

Thanks for the details Joseph.

1. So...ultimately it sounds like too tight quad muscles and connective tissue. This may or may not qualify as Quadriceps Tendonitis, you may or may not have any actual wear and tear tendon damage, but you certainly have a Tendonitis dynamic of increasing tightness and pain.

Some people get it under the patella. Some right there at the top of it. Of the two, I'd rather have what you describe, as that is more a muscular area and points to more of a tightness issue than tendon damage/irritation issue.

2. You also mentioned an Illio-Tibial Band issue (ITB). I'm guessing that all that treatment you got for that consisted of working the connective tissue band that runs down the outside of the leg/bone, but didn't deal with the muscle in the hip that controls the ITB.

PT and massage therapy commonly focuses (painfully so) on the 'tight band', but for some reason forgets that tight muscles put tension on tendons. Release the muscles and the 'tight band' will no longer be tight.

My point is, if your IT band and the Tensor Fascia Latae muscle that controls it is too tight, that is going to affect your leg and how the muscles hold themselves.

3. You mentioned a 'tube-shaped lump in the right one'. I assume that you mean a band if tight muscle/stuck together with stuck connective tissue'. You'll want to massage that to break it up and get it moving easily again.

4. Stiffening up. Literally, yes.

5. I would drop the squats from 3x/week to 1-2x/week.

Things that can/will help:

1. Increase your good fat intake. Omega 3's (and 9's, not 6's) Coconut oil.

2. Increase your water intake, and your protein intake, and Magnesium for Tendonitis if you haven't already.

3. Start massaging the hell out of the area.

Keep a frozen water bottle in the freezer. Pull it out. Roll your quads with it, dig at that 'lump' of tight muscle, dig into the whole area, work the area at the top of the patella/area of the teardrop. Get all the quads, and everything else in the area while you're at it.

5 minutes a leg at a time. at least a couple times a day. The more the merrier the first week if you want to invest time and effort into fast results.

How's that sound so far?

Nov 29, 2009
PART 4 - Appreciate it. - Pain in thighs just above the knee from wall squats
by: Anonymous

Thanks so much for the advice. I will definitely start implementing all of the points you mentioned.

Your diagnosis of tight quads sounds right. There's a test I've heard of where you lie on your back and pull one knee into your chest with the other foot dangling off the edge of a bench; if the dangling foot doesn't point at the ground the quads are too tight and mine sure are.

You didn't mention anything about stretching. In your view can stretching for long periods be helpful or might it cause more problems? I've been stretching with no noticeable change.

Thanks again,


Joshua Comments:

The self massage and ice massage counts as stretching. Very spot specific stretching.

Sure, stretching is good, but if there are spots of stuck tissue, regular stretching is not very targeted and generally will not stretch what -needs- to be stretched.

Having said that, light, easy, regular stretching is GREAT for your body.

Sep 02, 2012
Did that help?
by: Anonymous

I am facing a similar pain like yours. Did the advice given to you work to reduce the pain and bring you back to squatting with no pain later?

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