Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee)

Not Just For Runners

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), often referred to as “Runner’s Knee,” is a prevalent condition characterized by pain around or behind the patella (kneecap), where it articulates with the femur (thigh bone) at the patellofemoral joint. This syndrome is especially common among athletes, young adults, and individuals engaged in activities that involve extensive knee bending, such as running, squatting, and cycling.

The pain associated with PFPS typically arises from increased stress on the patellofemoral joint, leading to irritation of the patellar cartilage or the surrounding soft tissues. This condition doesn’t necessarily stem from a specific injury but often results from a combination of factors that contribute to abnormal tracking or increased pressure between the patella and femur. Such factors include muscular imbalances or weakness (particularly in the quadriceps and hip muscles), poor alignment of the legs, overuse, and inadequate footwear or training techniques.

Symptoms of PFPS are usually activity-related and may include a dull, aching pain in the front of the knee, aggravated by activities like climbing stairs, squatting, or sitting with bent knees for extended periods. Some individuals may also experience a sensation of cracking or popping when moving the knee.

Diagnosing PFPS involves a thorough clinical examination, focusing on the patient’s history and specific physical tests to assess knee alignment, muscle strength, and movement patterns. Imaging tests are not typically required but may be used to rule out other conditions.

Seeking Relief

Management of PFPS is predominantly conservative, emphasizing pain relief and addressing the underlying causes. Treatment strategies may include activity modification, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain management, and a structured physical therapy program aimed at strengthening and balancing the muscles around the knee and hip. Additionally, orthotics may be recommended for those with foot and ankle issues contributing to abnormal knee mechanics.

In most cases, with proper treatment and modifications, individuals with PFPS can expect a gradual improvement in their symptoms and a return to their normal activities. However, it’s crucial to address the condition early and comprehensively to prevent chronic pain and dysfunction.

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