Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee)
Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), also known as runner’s knee, is a condition characterized by pain and discomfort in the front of the knee, around or behind the patella (kneecap). The pain is typically worsened with activities that involve bending the knee, such as running, jumping, squatting, or climbing stairs. It is a common condition among athletes, particularly runners, and is often caused by overuse, improper training techniques, or biomechanical abnormalities.
Causes of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
The exact causes of patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) are not fully understood, but there are several factors that can contribute to its development, including:
- Overuse or repeated stress on the knee joint from activities such as running, jumping, or climbing stairs
- Biomechanical problems, such as improper alignment or tracking of the patella
- Weakness or imbalances in the muscles of the thigh or lower leg, particularly the quadriceps and hamstrings
- Tightness or inflexibility in the muscles of the thigh or lower leg, particularly the iliotibial (IT) band or calf muscles
- Trauma or injury to the knee, such as a direct blow or fall
- Arthritis or degenerative changes in the knee joint
It’s important to work with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying causes of PFPS and develop an individualized treatment plan.
Signs and Symptoms of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
The signs and symptoms of patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) typically include:
- Pain and discomfort in the front of the knee, around or behind the patella (kneecap)
- Pain that worsens with activities that involve bending the knee, such as running, jumping, squatting, or climbing stairs
- Pain that may be described as a dull ache, burning, or sharp pain
- Pain that may be accompanied by a cracking or popping sensation in the knee
- Swelling or tenderness around the knee joint
- Stiffness or tightness in the muscles around the knee
- Pain that may worsen after sitting for long periods of time or with activities that place prolonged stress on the knee joint.
It’s important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms, as untreated PFPS can lead to long-term complications or chronic pain.
Treatment for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment option for patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). A physiotherapist may use a combination of the following techniques to manage the symptoms of PFPS and improve knee function:
Exercise therapy: This may include strengthening and stretching exercises to improve the flexibility, balance, and strength of the muscles around the knee joint. Exercises may focus on the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles.
Manual therapy: This may include massage, mobilization, or manipulation of the soft tissues and joints around the knee to reduce pain and improve range of motion.
Biomechanical analysis: A physiotherapist may analyze your gait and movement patterns to identify any imbalances or abnormalities in your body mechanics that could be contributing to your symptoms. They may recommend changes in footwear, orthotics, or other devices to correct these imbalances.
Modalities: A physiotherapist may use modalities such as ice or heat therapy, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation to reduce pain and inflammation in the knee joint.
Education: A physiotherapist may provide education on proper body mechanics and techniques for activities that involve bending the knee, such as running or squatting, to reduce stress on the knee joint.
Activity modification: A physiotherapist may recommend modifying or reducing certain activities that aggravate your symptoms to allow the knee joint to rest and heal.
It’s important to work with a qualified and experienced physiotherapist to develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses your specific needs and goals.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about patellofemoral pain syndrome please call us at 03 9836 1126.
Rathleff, M. S., Graven-Nielsen, T., Olesen, J. L., & Holm, R. (2015). Can specific loading through exercise impart healing or regeneration of the patellar tendon?. Journal of applied physiology