Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

The Ins and Outs of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) is the broad medical term used to describe the pain experienced in the knee.

It’s one of the most common types of knee pain experienced by active people, especially those who play running sports such as basketball and football or runners who enjoy long distance marathons such as the City2Surf.

In fact, patellofemoral syndrome affects so many runners it’s often referred to as runner’s knee.

The Anatomy of Patellofemoral Syndrome

As the largest joint in the body, the knee is one of the most complex parts of the human body and a critical aspect of our daily movement.

In order to understand patellofemoral syndrome, it’s important to identify the parts of the knee involved. The lower end of the thighbone is called the femur, the upper end of the shin is known as the tibia, and the patella is the connecting part that floats in front, identified as the kneecap.

Ligaments and tendons connect these parts of the knee, with four main ligaments attaching to the bones like strong ropes pulling and guiding the knee as you move, run, jump and bend.

The patellar tendon is the structure which controls the back and forth movement, with the kneecap providing a cushion of fat to act as a shock absorber.

Signs of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Pain at the front of the knee is generally the first sign of patellofemoral pain syndrome. For some people, it feels like a dull ache, while for others patellofemoral syndrome shows itself as stiffness in the knee. Other commons signs that you’re experiencing patellofemoral syndrome include:

For those in a sedentary job like office work, patellofemoral syndrome can arise simply because of a constantly flexed knee. Too much time spent in that sitting position can fatigue the knee, contributing to the pain of patellofemoral syndrome.

What To Do for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Treatment

The first course of action for patellofemoral pain syndrome treatment is to stop exercising. A period of rest enables the knee to recover from the stress of overuse.

For runners, the trigger for patellofemoral syndrome may be that you’ve increased your running distance. If that’s the case, scaling back your training regime may be one of the initiatives you can undertake to reduce the painful effects of patellofemoral syndrome.

But if rest isn’t possible because of your competition calendar, then there are other patellofemoral syndrome treatments that can help solve your chronic knee pain.

Simple things such as stretching and flexibility exercises for the quadriceps and hamstrings can be introduced as part of your patellofemoral pain syndrome treatment.

Another recommendation for consideration in patellofemoral pain syndrome treatment is to lose weight, which reduces pressure on the knees. One research study showed being overweight can even increase the risk of knee arthritis, speeding up the loss of cartilage cells.

Sometimes, patellofemoral pain syndrome treatment requires investigation of the knee’s tracking. If your trochlear groove is not tracking normally, the patella can be pushed out which irritates the soft tissues of the knee, increasing pressure and pain when you exercise.

A sports podiatrist can investigate if patellar malalignment is the cause of your patellofemoral syndrome, and then suggest solutions such as wearing a brace, specific physical therapy exercises or custom orthotics to help align and stabilise your foot and ankle.

Whatever the cause of your patellofemoral pain, it’s imperative to confirm the diagnosis with a medical professional before you begin any type of patellofemoral pain syndrome treatment. That professional guidance will pinpoint the source and trigger of the knee pain, target the best course of action moving forward to get you off the couch and back on track.

Sports podiatristsKarl Lockett / Omar Mohamad

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome