Patellofemoral Pain

What is it?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is a blanket term used to describe a number of conditions that cause pain at the front of the knee (patellofemoral pain). A common complaint of athletes, it is often the result of irritation in the soft tissues around the front of the knee. It is typically the result of overuse; but for some people, it is the result of their kneecap being out of alignment, which results in the wear and tear of the kneecap cartilage. This chronic wear and tear can eventually cause the cartilage to soften and break down, a condition identified as chondromalacia. As a result, the underlying bone and knee joint become irritated.

Patellofemoral pain is characterized by dull, aching pain around the front of the kneecap (the patella) where it connects to the lower end of the thighbone (the femur). Pain is typically exacerbated by physical activities such as going up and down stairs, squatting, jumping and running. The prevalence of this problem is high and can occur in a wide range of physical activity levels.

What are the treatment options?

Treatment of patellofemoral pain depends on the underlying cause. The most important way to improve your condition is rest and rehabilitation. In some cases, surgery can correct the underlying condition and improve support to the knee.

Risk Factors

  • Overuse- activities that put repetitive stress on the knee 
  • Use of improper sports training techniques or equipment 
  • Changes in footwear or playing surface 
  • Weak muscles • Knee cap being out of alignment 
  • Previous injury

Rehabilitation Plan - Exercises

Physical therapy is often used to treat patellofemoral pain. Your physical therapist will perform a movement screen and determine the underlying factors contributing to your pain. Treatment will vary based on your therapists’ findings, but may include exercises that strengthen the muscles that support your knee as well as stretches to address soft-tissue that may be impeding normal knee mechanics.

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