Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Runner's Knee)

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is an irritation of the cartilage on the back of the patella (the kneecap) that causes pain in one or both knees. The condition is more commonly known as "runner's knee" and occurs most frequently for running and jumping athletes.

What You Need To Know About Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

What is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome occurs when the soft tissues supporting and cushioning the patella (kneecap) become damaged due to overuse or injury. When an individual with the syndrome bends or extends their knee, the patella moves across the grooves of the femur causing pain. Nerves may sense pain from the patella due to damaged tendons or synovial tissue near the knee joint. A damaged patella can make it hard to climb stairs, kneel, and participate in physical activities.

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Causes of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Repetitive stress on the patella due to running, squatting, wrestling, and other physical activities may cause patellofemoral pain syndrome. It can also occur from poor training practices, inadequate footwear, or anatomic issues.

Abnormal tracking of the kneecap on the trochlear groove may also push the patella to one side of a bent knee, increasing pressure and damaging soft tissues. Traumatic injuries on the knee or previous knee surgeries may also increase the risk of patellofemoral pain.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Symptoms

Common symptoms of patellofemoral pain syndrome include:

  • Chronic dull and aching pain in the front of one or both kneecaps.

  • Grinding, popping, or clicking sounds in your knee during physical activity.

  • Kneecap pain in front of the knee after prolonged sitting.

  • Kneecap that is tender when touched.

How is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Diagnosed?

To diagnose patellofemoral pain syndrome, schedule a physical examination with a qualified physician. A doctor will gently touch and inspect your kneecaps to assess your physical pain. You may also need to squat, jump, and lunge to test the knee durability and leg strength. You may experience some mild irritation during this portion of the exam.

Your doctor may also need to check the lower leg and kneecap's alignment, knee stability, hip rotation, thigh muscle tendons, tightness of the heel cord, and other strength and flexibility tests. These tests can help determine the condition of your patella. Your physician may also recommend imaging tests to observe the condition of the soft tissues, ligaments, cartilage, and bones near the knee.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Treatment

There are both surgical and non-surgical approaches to treat patellofemoral pain syndrome. Your physician will advise you about the recommended course of treatment for your specific condition and lifestyle goals.

Non-Surgical Treatment

Individuals should ice, rest, compress, and elevate the affected knee to help relieve patellofemoral pain. A compression knee wrap, along with medications like ibuprofen, may aid symptoms. Doctors recommend patients to begin a regular physical therapy routine to improve the range of motion, flexibility, and strength of their knee. Core exercises help strengthen lower back muscles, while quadricep exercises and stretches help stabilize the knee cap.

Patients should also use cushioned shoe inserts to take the stress off the affected leg. Supportive braces or tapping the knee will also help reduce pain and aid your mobility. Individuals should also refrain from intensive sports and only perform low-impact activities, such as swimming or bike riding.

If pain persists and your efforts do not seem to relieve symptoms, a physician may recommend surgical treatment.

Surgical Treatment

Surgical treatment for patellofemoral pain syndrome is rare. However, the most frequent treatments use an arthroscopy. During an arthroscopy, a physician will insert a pencil-thin camera device (arthroscope) into your knee and remove damaged cartilage and fragments. In the most severe cases, a doctor may need to completely realign the kneecap's angle and relieve pressure on the cartilage.

Your physician will advise you on the best course of treatment for your condition. Book your appointment with the knee experts at Resurgens Orthopaedics now.

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