Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is a common condition among athletes and non-athletes alike. PFPS causes pain around or underneath the patella (often called the “kneecap”). While patients typically experience a gradual and progressive onset of pain without a specific traumatic event, patellofemoral pain can also be caused by direct trauma to the knee.
Signs & Symptoms
Pain associated with PFPS typically arises with activities such as climbing up or down stairs, rising from chairs, kneeling, and squatting. Patients with PFPS often experience deep, aching pain after a prolonged period of sitting with the knee in a bent position. These symptoms tend to resolve quickly by straightening the knee or walking.
The Knee Joint
The patellofemoral (knee) joint is composed of the kneecap (patella) and the underlying thigh bone (femur). When the knee bends and straightens, the underside of the patella glides smoothly up and down along a shallow groove on the femur bone. While the exact cause of PFPS remains unclear, studies have suggested that patellofemoral pain may arise from the improper alignment of the patella within its groove during movement.
Treatment & Rehabilitation
Although the cause of PFPS remains uncertain, most patients do well with conservative treatment, and surgical intervention is rarely required. The rehabilitation and treatment of PFPS usually involves:
- Relative rest with temporary activity modification (focusing on low-impact aerobic activity such as swimming, cycling or deep-water running)
- Use of therapeutic techniques to reduce pain and inflammation in the joint
- ex. physiotherapy, NSAIDs, applying ice to the injured area, patellar taping and/or bracing, etc.
- Addressing issues in nearby structures that may be contributing to PFPS
- Quadriceps strengthening, stretching, and retraining
- Proper training & strengthening of core stabilizer muscles
- Stretching lower limb muscles
- Evaluation of footwear
- Patellar taping and/or bracing
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