Suffering from Patellofemoral Joint Pain or Patello Femoral Syndrome?
This is a common runners complaint, Patellofemoral pain syndrome is pain in the front of part of the knee that is, the knee cap. The technical term for the knee cap is patella. Hence, the name ‘patellofemoral’. The syndrome is also often referred to as ‘runner’s knee’ since it is common among people who engage in sports involving running and jumping.
This article will cover what exactly the syndrome is, its symptoms and causes. Most importantly, how to detect and prevent the occurrence of this knee pain.
What exactly is patellofemoral pain syndrome?
Patellofemoral pain syndrome occurs when nerves in the tendons, synovial tissue, and bone around the kneecap sense pain. The onset of patellofemoral syndrome can be gradual due to wearing off of the cartilage or result from a single big incident that directly impacts your knee cap.
In order to understand the seriousness of this syndrome we must first know the role of the knee cap in our body. The patella functions to allow for smooth movement of the knee in flexion and extension, and also protects the anterior surface of the knee joint. It is all the more important in the case of runners since it helps our quadriceps muscles more effective.
Causes of Patello Femoral Joint Pain
Common causes of the condition are overuse of the knee joint and trauma, such as hitting the kneecap or falling on it. It is believed that the condition occurs more commonly among runners or people who engage in sports but it can also occur among the ones who do not play sports actively. Some people have a kneecap that abnormally moves in the channel at the end of the femur. This can cause friction in the knee. In simpler terms, Patellofemoral syndrome happens when the back of the kneecap comes into contact with the thigh bone. Some common causes are as follows:
- Overuse of the knee: Activities that put constant strain on the knee like running or jumping can lead to immense pain in the knees.
- Muscle imbalance: There are certain muscles in our body that are weak. The muscles around the hip and knees often fail to keep our knees aligned hence, leading to injuries due to imbalance.
- Trauma: A sudden hit or injury to the knee directly increases the chances of the syndrome.
Patello Femoral Symptoms and how to detect this joint syndrome
The most prominent symptom is pain in the front of the knee. The pain can occur in one knee or both the knees and it usually worsens with activity. Pain when exercising, pain when bending the knee, such as when climbing the stairs, jumping, or squatting, pain after sitting for an extended time with the knee bent, such as while watching a movie at a theater and cracking or popping sounds in the knee when climbing stairs or after sitting for an extended time are other symptoms.
The symptoms of patellofemoral syndrome range from mild to intensely painful. However, depending on the severity of the pain or discomfort, suitable measures can be taken. There are certain conservative home remedies or proper scientific treatments for the same.
A doctor usually asks the patient to move their legs and knees in certain motions to check for any instability or abnormality in the range of motion. A final diagnosis is made on the basis of a MRI scan or X-ray.
How to Treat Petello Femoral pain
RICE protocol: This is one of the simplest measures to alleviate the pain. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. It involves resting the leg, applying ice packs regularly, using compression bandages, and elevating the knee above heart level. If this method is used within 72 hours of the injury, it proves to be more effective.
Medication: Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can help to reduce the pain and swelling associated with the syndrome. Although such medicines may have their own side effects like digestive problems.
Physical therapy: People who experience patellofemoral syndrome may wish to reduce or avoid activities that include repetitive high-impact actions, such as running, kneeling, squatting, jumping etc.
Examples of low-impact exercises that put less strain on the knees include, swimming, cycling and water aerobics.
There are a few exercises that one can do in order to release some of the pain:
This exercise strengthens the quadriceps muscles on the front of the upper thigh.
- Sit in a chair with both feet flat on the ground.
- Straighten your right leg to extend it straight, feeling the muscles in the upper thigh working.
- Hold the position for five seconds. Lower the foot and repeat 10 times.
- Repeat on the other leg. Rest for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat on both legs for two more sets.
This stretch is excellent to do after the leg extension exercise because it stretches the muscles that were just worked.
- Stand with your left hand resting gently on something sturdy, such as a piece of furniture.
- Pull your right foot toward your buttocks and grasp the top of your right foot with your right hand. Point your right knee toward the floor to feel a stretch in the front of your leg.
- Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Release the stretch and repeat on the other leg. Perform three to five repetitions on each side.
Other exercises include:
- Standing hamstrings stretch
- Wall sliding
- External hip rotation
Here’s how to make sure that you prevent this common running injury in the future
Certain steps can be taken to reduce the risk of knee problems. These include:
- Keeping muscle balance: Strengthening the muscles in the knee and leg can reduce the risk of muscular imbalance and contribute to proper alignment of the knee. Making sure of a proper balance helps in releasing the stress on the knees.
- Correcting flat feet: Flat feet can cause a lot of strain on the knees and in order to correct this, there are a range of special footwear one can use to release the pressure from knee joints.
- Having a healthy weight: A heavier body tends to put more strain on the knees. We must pay attention to our body weight by maintaining a proper, wholesome diet and regular physical exercise.
- Warming up before workouts is a must to avoid injury and increase flexibility.
- Changing training regimens gradually: We must be careful while working out at the gym. There must be a gradual increase in the weights that we life since a sudden increase in the intensity or frequency of weights leads to serious injuries.