What is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome and How can it be Treated?
Patellofemoral pain syndrome refers to pain in the front of the knee and around the patella or kneecap. It is common among athletes and active individuals.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome occurs when nerves sense pain in the bones and soft tissues around the kneecap. The soft tissues include the tendons, the tissue beneath the kneecap and the synovial tissue in the knee joint. In some cases, chondromalacia patella is also present, which causes the softening and breakdown of the articular cartilage under the kneecap. Since there are no nerves in articular cartilage, damage to the cartilage itself cannot directly cause pain but it can lead to inflammation of the synovium and pain in the underlying bone.
Causes of Patellofemoral Pain Ssyndrome
Patellofemoral pain syndrome is often caused due to activities that stress the knee. These may include –
- climbing stairs
- change in the frequency of activity
- improper use of equipment
- change in footwear
Patellar malalignment can also lead to patellofemoral syndrome. The kneecap may be pushed out to one side of the femoral groove when the knee is bent, causing patellar malalignment. This increases pressure in the back of the kneecap and irritates the soft tissues.
Symptoms of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
Common patellofemoral pain syndrome symptoms include –
- pain after staying seated with knees bent for a long time
- pain during exercise and activities that need repeated bending of the knee
- pain after change in level or intensity of activity
- popping or crackling sounds in the knee
To diagnose the condition underlying your pain and other symptoms, your physician will review your complete medical history, ask you to describe your symptoms and the manner in which the injury occurred, and perform a physical examination. The doctor may order an X-ray or MRI to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
In most cases, patellofemoral pain symptoms will improve with conservative treatment, including –
- Activity modification
- RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
- NSAIDs or Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
Any surgical intervention for patellofemoral pain syndrome is only necessary if the doctor cannot determine the cause of your pain.
Prevention of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
You can prevent patellofemoral pain syndrome by –
- maintaining proper conditioning of the muscles around the knee, especially the quadriceps and the hamstrings
- wearing appropriate shoes
- adequately warming up
- gradual increase in activity
- reducing pain causing activities
- maintaining a healthy body weight
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