Pain on the front of the knee is one of the most common types of knee pain. This type of pain is often termed Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). This syndrome is most common in athletes, active teens, older adults, and physical laborers. Patellofemoral pain is responsible for 20-25% of all reported knee pain. This syndrome is more common in women compared to men. Before we can discuss common treatments you need to first understand what patellofemoral pain syndrome is.
What is patellofemoral pain syndrome?
As was mentioned above patellofemoral pain syndrome is pain in the front of the knee and kneecap. This syndrome is due to overuse and repetive motions that the knee is not strong enough to handle. Some factors that may contribute to patellofemoral pain syndrome are:
1. Weakness in the muscles around the knee and hip
2. Tightness or stiffness of the muscles around the knee and hip
3. Abnormal alignment of the knee
These factors can cause the kneecap to not move smoothly in the groove of the knee. Through repetitive movement the friction that is created from the kneecap turns into pain and irritation.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome usually occurs in those who are active or quickly increase their level of activity. This is especially true if the activity requires repeated knee motion such as running, biking, or climbing stairs.
Age can also have an effect due to changes that often occur with aging on the underside of the kneecap. If untreated this syndrome can escalate to were minimal knee movement can be painful and difficult.
Usually, patellofemoral pain is worse when you walk up or down hills or stairs and on uneven surfaces. This pain tends to increase with activity and improve with rest. You also may:
Feel pain after sitting for long periods of time with the knee bent
Occasionally hear or feel a “cracking” or “popping” when you bend or straighten your knee
How Physical Therapy can help?
After a thorough evaluation, your therapist will create a plan to help you return to your normal activities. Some common treatments are:
1. Strengthening exercises for the hip, knee and ankle
2. Stretching exercises for the hip, knee and ankle
3. Taping the kneecap to change tracking
4. Movement reeducation
5. Foot orthotics
It is important to note that no all of these treatments will need to performed by everyone. Some activity modification may need to be applied to decrease pain and inflammation. As part of your treatment plan your therapist will go over safe activities and exercises for you to perform.
Once your knee pain is gone you should continue to use the treatment techniques that helped to prevent another episode. As the saying goes “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.