Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) describes a painful irritation of the cartilage behind your kneecap. Although anyone may be affected, it is often the result of overuse of the knee in sports that require jumping or running so it is sometimes referred to as “Runner’s knee”. PFPS is the most common cause of knee pain in the general population, affecting an estimated 25% of adults.
One of the most common causes of PFPS is an imbalance between the muscles that help to guide your kneecap in its V-shaped groove at the end of your thigh bone. Repeatedly flexing and extending a misaligned kneecap leads to pain, swelling and eventually arthritis. Misalignment of the kneecap (patella) is often secondary to problems in the hip and foot, especially weakness of your gluteal muscles or flat feet.
PFPS produces a dull pain behind the kneecap that is aggravated by prolonged walking, running, squatting, jumping, stair climbing or arising from a seated position. The pain is often worse when walking downhill or down stairs. Longstanding misalignment can cause damage to the cartilage, which results in popping, grinding or giving way.
Conservative care, like the type provided in this office, is generally successful at relieving your symptoms. Initially, it is important for you to minimize activities that provoke your pain, especially running, jumping and activities that stress you into a “knock-kneed” position. Don’t allow your knees to cross in front of your toes when squatting. Some athletes may need to modify their activity to include swimming or bicycling instead of running.
Performing your home exercises consistently is one of the most important things that you can do to help realign the patella, relieve pain and prevent recurrence. The use of home ice or ice massage applied around your kneecap for 10-15 minutes, several times per day may be helpful.