Patellofemoral pain syndrome is one of several potential causes of knee pain that may affect up to 25% of athletes. Typically it occurs in the front of the knee due to compressive forces on the knee causing the underside of the knee cap to grind against the femur. This is most commonly seen in adolescent female athletes and long distance runners. During periods of rapid growth there is often neuromuscular imbalance that tends to occur more in females than males. Pain is often reproduced when sitting with the knees bent for a long period of time, climbing stairs, running, weight lifting, or kneeling.
Some potential causes of this problem are biomechanical due to excessive pronation of the foot and abnormal movement of the knee during landing. There is a groove on the lower end of the femur in which the knee cap travels. When there are muscle imbalances in the leg there can be abnormal tracking of the knee cap causing it to grind against one side of the groove causing pain.
In order to best treat this problem, it is important to know where it is coming from. A thorough evaluation needs to be performed including strength and range of motion assessment of the hip, knee, and ankle. Often we find tightness in the quadriceps, hip flexors, and the calf. Hip strengthening can be important to help improve faulty movements and prevent other injuries caused by running and jumping. Sometimes in-shoe orthotics are useful to correct biomechanical abnormalities in the foot. Having flat feet can promote a rotation of the hip and knee that leads to lateral patellar tracking.
With this type of problem, it is usually good to take a rest from aggravating activities if pain lasts more than a few hours afterwards. Ice can be used over the involved area to reduce pain and inflammation. Despite being able to continue your sport, it is important to see a qualified professional to assess what has caused the problem and to develop an appropriate plan to correct it. Early intervention is highly recommended to begin addressing the problems and prevent a more painful situation with a longer recovery. Once someone is rehabbed, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Nurse Practitioner Kathy Abel RN, APNC emphasizes the importance of complying with the home program prescribed by their Physical Therapist. She states, “It is important to continue with your home exercise program once physical therapy is complete to prevent a recurrence, and stay healthy and remain on the field or court.”
If you have pain, numbness, or weakness in your knee or legs, please do not delay. Contact a doctor of physical therapy or your physician for a consultation. The physical therapists at all three of BREAKTHRU’s convenient locations offer free consultations to assess your needs and make recommendations or take appropriate action to prevent small issues from becoming big problems. Call today and take your first step toward living pain free!
DR. KEVIN SCHNITZER PT, DPT