Patellofemoral pain is a term used to describe pain located in the front of the knee at the patella (knee cap). Commonly, these conditions are referred to as jumpers’ knee or runners’ knee. This condition is typically found in those who are regularly participating in sports (running and jumping movements) although non sporting people can suffer with the condition. The pain and stiffness caused by this condition can make activities of daily living very difficult.
With this condition knee pain often increases when walking or running and when sitting for long periods of time. Simple treatments can be almost as effective as seeing a physiotherapist although sometimes physiotherapy is needed to return to desired sports/work.
Typically, patellofemoral pain presents as a dull ache located in the front of the knee, this normally worsens gradually and can be in one or both knees.
- Pain when walking up or down stairs
- Pain related to a change in activity level
- Increased pain with squatting and jumping
- Stiffness round the knee joint
- Popping and cracking around the knee
- Pain with prolonged sitting (knee bent)
In most cases patellofemoral pain is caused through overuse in physically demanding activities that stress the knee joint, as well as an increase in activity load, frequency or intensity. Other factors related to this are poor training techniques (poor form) or/and changes to footwear or playing surface.
Other associated risk factors
- Muscle imbalances
Weaknesses and imbalances in the hip and surrounding knee muscles causing the alignment of the patella to be disrupted.
Direct impact to the kneecap (dislocation, sports injury, fall)
Previous ACL or similar surgery that results in a graft from the patella tendon could have an impact on its sensitivity in the future
- Poor tracking of the patella
As mentioned before, muscle imbalances can cause poor alignment of the patella in relation to where it should lie. Sometimes the patella can shift outside or inside the required trochlear groove it should be located in, it can also be too high for the trochlea groove. This condition is known as patella alta.
Activity changes – Try to limit the amount of exercises that you do that causes pain to the knee. Lowering your training routine or reverting back to your original training sessions before the injury occurred may reduce the symptoms. Bilking and swimming are a perfect low threat, low impact alternatives to maintain your cardiovascular fitness.
Weight – losing weight will also help you to relieve unnecessary pressure on joints.
Medication– non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can help to fight and reduce the swelling and pain sensation in the area of injury. You should seek medical advice before taking any medication. If symptoms persist you should consult your doctor or physiotherapist.
Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation:
Rest – Rest the knee and avoid any provoking activities.
Ice – use ice packs for 20 minutes at a time several times per day to aid the tissue healing process. (do not apply ice directly to the skin)
Compression – compress the area that you are icing to try and eliminate the swelling produced in the area.
Elevation– elevate as often as possible, rest with your knee raised higher than your heart.