Patellofemoral pain syndrome is one of the most common knee pain problems, yet it is often misunderstood. It is a generic term used to describe pain in the front of the knee. If left untreated, the injury makes everyday activities difficult. This guide will help you understand patellofemoral pain syndrome, its causes, and its symptoms so you can begin an effective treatment regimen as soon as possible.
The knee is one of the largest and most complex joints in the body. It comprises the shinbone, the thigh bone, and the kneecap. The knee has four main ligaments, which act like strong ropes to tightly hold the bones together.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome occurs when the kneecap rubs roughly against the femur bone underneath. It is sometimes called “jumper’s knee” or “runner’s knee” because it is common in athletes. A study of athletic patients found that patellofemoral pain syndrome made up 19.6% of all female injuries (33.2% of knee injuries) and 7.4% of all male injuries. The condition commonly affects hikers, runners, and cyclists, but it is also common in office employees and anyone who sits for prolonged periods.
Those with desk jobs can reduce the risk of developing patellofemoral pain syndrome by using a pedal exerciser under their desk.
What Causes Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?
Patellofemoral pain syndrome has been linked to certain factors. These include:
Overuse: Participating in jumping or running sports puts repeated stress on your knee joint, especially if you are increasing your training level each week. This can cause irritation and inflammation under the kneecap. Patellofemoral pain syndrome may also be caused by a sudden change in physical activities, such as the intensity and duration of activity. Using improper sports training equipment and techniques play a role in the injury process.
Injury: Trauma to the kneecap, such as a fracture or dislocation, may cause patellofemoral pain.
Patellar Malalignment: Poor tracking of the patella in the trochlear groove has been associated with patellofemoral pain syndrome. When the knee is bent, the kneecap is pushed out to one side of the groove. Abnormal tracking of the patella can be caused by muscular imbalances or weaknesses, particularly in the quadriceps muscles at the front of your thigh and issues with the alignment of the legs between the ankles and the hips.
Try a pair of knee straps to improve patella tracking. They’re discreet, comfortable, and affordable.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Symptoms
Your doctor will likely to ask you to describe your symptoms and their locations—which is key to an accurate diagnosis. Here are the most common symptoms of patellofemoral pain syndrome.
Intense pain around and under the kneecap when walking, after sitting for long periods, and during activities that require repeatedly bending the knee
Occasional knee buckling
Swelling in the knee joint after exercise
A popping or grinding sensation
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Diagnosis
The symptoms listed above can worsen over time. Visit your doctor as soon as possible to diagnose the major cause of your discomfort. Your doctor will use the methods below to give an accurate diagnosis.
Medical History and Physical Examination
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, your general health, and your family’s history of knee problems. You will discuss the nature of the pain (sharp vs. dull) and when it started. After that, your doctor will check your knee, gently press the kneecaps, and move your leg into different positions. Your doctor may also require you to lunge, jump, or squat to assess your knee and core body strength.
This test is essential for ruling out damage to the structure of your knee and to the connective tissues. Although X-rays create clear images of bones, they are less effective for examining soft tissues.
Your doctor might request a CT scan to determine the root cause of your knee pain. CT scans produce clear images of internal structures, both bone and soft tissues.
Using a strong magnetic field and radio waves, MRI scans create detailed images of knee ligaments and cartilage. However, the test is much more expensive than CT scans or X-rays.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Treatment
Once you have been diagnosed, you and your doctor will discuss the best course of action. Your treatment plan will likely begin with simple measures. Listed below are effective treatments for patellofemoral pain syndrome to help relieve pain and increase joint function.
Orthotic devices are a simple way to relieve pain associated with patellofemoral pain syndrome and to prevent further injury. The Envelop full-length orthotics, for example, are crafted to handle extensive wear and tear. They take stress off your lower leg by stabilizing your foot and ankle. Although custom orthotics are an option, they’re more expensive and don’t typically work any better than pre-made orthotics.
Using insoles is an easy and cost-effective way to improve the comfort of shoes you already own. ( See Product )
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) relieve pain and reduce swelling. Over-the-counter medicines, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, also promote healing. Always consult your doctor before beginning any new medications.
The RICE method stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Use it immediately after an injury to relieve pain and reduce swelling.
Rest. If you’re experiencing intense pain, limit your activity and don’t stress yourself. Take a rest and avoid putting weight on the injured knee.
Ice. Another thing you can do to ease the pain and speed up healing is to use a cold pack for at least 20 minutes, but do not apply it directly on your skin. Do this a few times every day.
Compression. To prevent further swelling, gently wrap your knee with an elastic bandage. Just leave a hole in the area of the patella. The bandage must fit snugly, but not too much that it causes additional pain.
Elevation. When you are having a rest, make sure to raise your knee higher than your heart as often as possible.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Brace
Most cases of patellofemoral pain syndrome are treated with bracing. A universal knee brace will alleviate knee pain and provide much-needed support. It can also help restore range of motion and strength. Using a brace for patellofemoral pain syndrome is crucial to ensuring your injury heals properly and that you don’t further damage the joint.
Wearing a brace is crucial to preventing dangerous lateral movement and reducing the risk of further damage. ( See Product )
Along with your universal brace or hinged knee brace, you may wish to use a compression knee sleeve to soothe your sore knees. The gentle compression reduces swelling and improves circulation—fantastic after spending time on your feet.
A compression knee sleeve will reduce swelling and inflammation, while improving circulation to encourage healing. ( See Product )
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Exercises
There are several simple exercises for patellofemoral pain syndrome. These gentle exercises and stretches do not stress your knee, so you’ll improve your strength and mobility without risking further damaging the joint. Always consult your doctor or physical therapist before beginning any exercise routine.
Straight Leg Lift
Step 1: Lie on your back, then bend your good knee.
Step 2: Lift your injured leg a few inches above the floor. Keep the thigh muscles tight.
Step 3: Hold the position for about 5 to 10 seconds.
Step 4: Lower your leg slowly and relax for a couple seconds.
Step 5: Perform this exercise 5 to 10 times a day.
Step 1: Lie back on the floor and raise your leg. Support your thigh with your hands.
Step 2: Straighten your knee slowly until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh.
Step 3: Hold the position for at least 10 seconds.
Step 4: Perform 5 to 10 repetitions.
Iliotibial Band and Buttock Stretch
Step 1: Sit with your feet in front of you. Then bend your right leg and place it over your left leg.
Step 2: Slowly twist your body to the right and place your palms flat on the floor. Use your left arm to push the right leg. You should feel a stretch in the outer part of your right thigh and in your right buttock.
Step 3: Try to hold the position for 10 to 20 seconds.
Step 4: Reverse the position, and do the exercise with your other leg.
Step 5: Perform 5 to 10 repetitions per leg every day.
Calf Stretch Against Wall
Step 1: Facing a wall, stand a few inches away from it. Stagger your stance, then place one foot forward.
Step 2: Slowly lean forward and rest your hands on the wall. Keep your heel on the floor.
Step 3: Make sure your head, hip, and heel are in a straight line.
Step 4: Hold the position for 10 to 20 seconds, then switch sides.
Step 5: Repeat this exercise 6 to 10 times.
To prevent patellofemoral pain syndrome, focus on building your quads during your strength training routine. Doing so improves knee control and reduces stress on the joint.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Taping
Patellofemoral pain syndrome taping helps you maintain proper tracking of the patella during knee movement. A specialist will teach you how to properly tape your knee to lessen pain and make exercise safer and more comfortable.
If taping seems intimidating, try a knee sleeve to achieve similar results.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Surgery
In severe cases, and if nonsurgical methods fail to treat the injury, a surgical procedure may be required. Before deciding to undergo surgery for patellofemoral pain syndrome talk over all the factors with your doctor and the surgeon.
Available surgical options for chronic patellofemoral pain syndrome include arthroscopy and tibial tubercle transfer. These procedures involve removing fragments of damage cartilage and realigning the angle of the kneecap.
Products that Help Reduce Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
To prevent complications, follow your doctor’s treatment plan. When performing home exercise programs, only increase your activity by 10% each week—assuming symptoms don’t return. Continue using taping and braces until your doctor tells you otherwise. Orthotics, on the other hand, should be continued indefinitely.
Carefully monitor your progression as your condition improves. Doing helps you avoid re-injury and speeds your recovery. Soon, you will be back to sports and workout routines. But don’t rush, and be sure to check in with your doctor regularly.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: Care and Prevention
Treating patellofemoral pain syndrome requires effort and patience. After all, no injury heals overnight. To beat this common knee problem and get better faster, follow your doctor’s instructions. Don’t force your knee to perform movements before it’s ready or make sudden changes to your recovery plan. Be patient, and focus on strengthening your quads to better control knee movements.
Jessica Hegg is the content manager and at ViveHealth.com. With vast product knowledge and understanding of individual needs, she aims to share valuable information on making smart buying choices, overcoming obstacles and overall improving the quality of life for others. Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle.
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