Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Understanding Your Condition

What is patellofemoral pain syndrome?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is defined as pain occurring around the kneecap. It is also referred to as “runner’s knee” or “jumper’s knee”. Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is common in athletes and is more likely to affect females and young adults, though it can also occur in nonathletes. The largest joint in the body, the knee is made up of the thighbone, shinbone, and kneecap. These bones are connected and held together by ligaments and tendons. Cartilage allows the bones of the joint to glide smoothly and synovial fluid aids in the movement of the joint. When the knee is bent and straightened, it moves back in forth inside a groove called the trochlea. Located below the kneecap is a layer of fat that provides cushioning.

What are the causes and symptoms of patellofemoral pain syndrome?

The discomfort related to patellofemoral pain syndrome is caused by the nerves sensing pain in the bones and soft tissues surrounding the kneecap. In most cases the condition is caused by activities that put stress on the knee such as jogging or climbing stairs or changes in activity levels. It can also be related to poor tracking of the kneecap, where the kneecap is pushed out to one side in the trochlear groove. This can be caused by issues with the alignment of the legs between the hips and ankles or a muscular imbalance. Symptoms of patellofemoral pain syndrome include pain at the front of the knee which can occur during exercise, after sitting for long periods with a bent knee, or after changes in activity levels. The patient may also experience a popping or cracking sound during activities like climbing stairs or standing after sitting for a long period of time.

What is the diagnosis and treatment like for patellofemoral pain syndrome?

To diagnose patellofemoral pain syndrome a healthcare provider will conduct a physical exam and note the symptoms the patient is experiencing. They will also ask the patient about activities and pain levels during or after those activities. They will conduct a thorough physical exam to rule out any other conditions related to knee pain. Imaging such as X-rays and MRIs can also be ordered to both diagnose and rule out other conditions.

For treatment, a doctor may recommend resting and icing the area, using compression wraps, elevating the leg, and changing activity levels. They may also suggest nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication and weight loss. Orthotics can also be prescribed in order to help stabilize the foot and ankle which can take stress off of the knee. Physical therapy can also be prescribed to patients and can help them regain optimal mobility. In order to prevent patellofemoral pain syndrome, patients can wear appropriate footwear, warm up and stretch before activities, increase activity levels gradually, limit activities that cause pain associated with the condition, and maintain a healthy weight.

Learn more from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Make an appointment with a specialist at Mobility Bone & Joint Institute to discuss your options.

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