Sore knees going up and down stairs, climbing hills or running? Clicking and cracking every time you move? There’s a good chance it’s because of patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). Particularly in active individuals, patellofemoral syndrome can be a frequent source of knee pain. Many people stop exercising for an extended period when they have patellofemoral pain. Receiving medical treatment early sets the tone for a faster recovery. Reclaim your movement today by reading about your potential source of pain, how to identify it, and how you can fast-track your recovery.
What is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?
Patellofemoral pain syndrome is a broad term used to diagnose discomfort or pain around the patellofemoral joint. As the name would suggest, this joint occurs between the kneecap (patella) and thigh bone (femur). It is broadly classified as an overuse injury in this region, which gradually worsens without any direct trauma to the area.
According to multiple studies, up to 33% of all knee injuries are related to patellofemoral pain syndrome . While most people get positive outcomes after rehabilitation, up to three quarters of people will eventually have to stop participating in physical activities (e.g. running, sports, etc.). Due to the different bone structures of the hip, females are 2-10 times more likely to be diagnosed than males.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Causes
Given that it’s nicknamed ‘Runner’s Knee’, this condition is particularly common in running activities and sports. Other activities that can cause patellofemoral pain syndrome include sitting for a long time, squatting and jumping .
Especially when these types of activities are suddenly increased or performed repetitively, the knee may not be able to tolerate excessive knee bending forces.
Additionally, those with muscular balances and structural abnormalities (e.g. shallow knee groove, small kneecap dimensions, etc.) are also at risk of developing patellofemoral pain .
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Symptoms
The classic symptom of this condition is often reported as a dull and achy pain in the front of the knee. During aggravating physical activities, aching knees will gradually appear and worsen over time. Given the large number of structures in the patellofemoral area, symptoms can vary from person to person. Other signs of patellofemoral syndrome, include:
• Pain during repetitive movements which requires the knee to bend and load with body weight (e.g. stairs, running, etc.)
• Although less common, vague pain can also be felt around the patella and behind the knee
• Instability of the knee which can also be described as the knee buckling, giving way or locking
• Excessive clicking and grinding of the knee whilst moving
Patellofemoral Syndrome Diagnosis and Tests
Patellofemoral pain syndrome can be diagnosed through a thorough physical assessment performed by a physiotherapist or sports physician. If required, further imaging investigations can also support the diagnosis, including MRIs, X-rays and ultrasounds.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Treatment
The majority of patellofemoral pain syndrome can be treated conservatively without surgery or serious medical treatments. Physiotherapists and exercise physiologists regularly treat these conditions through a combination of different treatments . Examples include:
• Rehabilitation performed using corrective, strengthening and neuromuscular control exercises
• Modifying training schedules (e.g. reducing volume, increasing rest durations, etc.)
• Technique modifications for aggravating activities (e.g. running, squatting, jumping, etc.)
• Self-trigger point release
• Taping and bracing
• Deep tissue and sports massage
• Dry needling
At Move Better for Life, we want to get to the root cause of your knee problems. If you’re struggling with stiffness, pain or reduced mobility, please contact us today. Our team of physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and occupational therapists will tailor a solution for you. For more information, please make a booking here.