What is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (often referred to as runners’ knee) is a term used to describe pain in the front of the knee or kneecap. The repetitive action of running or jumping is often associated with patellofemoral syndrome, however, doctors like Dr. Martin often see these injuries in patients who weight lift or do CrossFit and have even tried to rename this injury CrossFit knee! Women are also susceptible to this due to their body mechanics. A wider hip and more strength in the quads put more pressure on the knee during these types of activities. Though these are all types of patients we frequently see with PPS, many kinds of patients experience this pain. It can make it difficult and painful to climb stairs, squat, hike, and perform other daily activities.
What Causes Patellofemoral?
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome is often seen as an overuse injury. Certain exercises are associated with the condition such as running, squatting, and climbing stairs. If a patient starts performing these kinds of exercises excessively with no previous history of exercise, adds on more days or intensifies the workouts, these can all lead to PPS.
Other causes include patellar misalignment.
- If the kneecap sits higher than normal on the thigh bone, this makes the knee less stable and prone to pain. This is also called patella alta.
- Muscle misalignment is another cause and is more commonly found in women with weaker or more imbalanced quad muscles and a wider hip. The quad muscle helps keep the knee cap in the groove, but when this is misaligned it can cause pain in the knee.
How Long Does It Take to Heal?
This highly depends on the patient and treatments taken. If a patient commits to their physical therapy exercises and works on resting as well, you could see an improvement in 6-8 weeks. However, if more damage was done to the knee it could take longer and require a more invasive treatment method.
What Exercises Help Patellofemoral Syndrome?
Exercises that strengthen as well as stretch the quads and hips help with managing muscle alignment. Properly aligned muscles will help stabilize the kneecap and manage pain. Your physical therapist will help develop a treatment plan that best suits you.
Can You Fully Recover from Patellofemoral?
Depending on the damage done, yes. If you simply have muscle misalignment, adding physical therapy exercises, stretches, and resting will help improve the symptoms that come with patellofemoral.
Treatment Options for Patellofemoral
RICE method- the first step to any injury is the RICE method. Rest, ice, compression, elevation. Avoid putting added weight or pressure on the knee, ice for 20 minutes at a time several times a day, wrap the knee to help control swelling, and elevate the knee higher than your heart.
Anti-inflammatory medications- In unison with the RICE method, try using over-the-counter medicines like Advil or ibuprofen to manage swelling and pain. Always consult with your doctor before taking medications and make sure to comply with the correct dosage stated on the bottle.
If your pain persists, it is important to consult with an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the knee. Your doctor will help determine the best treatment plan for you and get you on track to recovery.
Physical Therapy will most likely be the first treatment your doctor prescribes to help with muscle alignment, strength, endurance, and range of motion. These exercises will help stabilize your kneecap and teach you how to prevent further damage to the knee.
Surgical / More Invasive Treatments
Though surgery is rare for patellofemoral pain syndrome, it is an option for those with severe cases. If you suffer from PPS and have further damage to the cartilage in your knee, you may be a candidate.
Arthroscopic Surgery- arthroscopic knee surgery allows the surgeon to view the damage in your knee without making a large, invasive incision. Once they can identify the issue they can go in and remove any damaged cartilage in the knee. Recovery from a knee arthroscopy lasts about 6 weeks.
How Do You Prevent Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?
Though this condition can be improved with the treatment methods listed above, it is possible for the symptoms to recur. There are some steps you can take to prevent the symptoms from recurring.
- Wear the appropriate shoes
- Incorporate both dynamic and static stretches before and after engaging in physical activity
- Working on your range of motion and flexibility
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Continuing with your at-home physical therapy exercises provided by your physical therapist
- Staying at the same physical activity level and gradually increases if desired