Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), also known as runner’s knee, occurs when you have dull pain around the front of the knee (patella). Patella is where the knee connects with the lower end of the thighbone (femur).
PFPS is the most common cause of knee pain. Though it is rare, if left untreated, it can result in permanent damage to knee cartilage.
If you are a runner, you should be extra careful as you are more prone to develop PFPS.
What are the symptoms of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?
Our knees play an essential part in our daily lives. Feeling severe pain in them can often be a major hindrance when we are in the middle of a task that requires free movement.
Do not ignore knee pain by thinking your body is just acting up. It can be more than that. Look out for these symptoms:
- 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.
- hearing cracking or popping sounds in the knee when climbing stairs or after sitting for an extended time.
This pain, which usually begins gradually and is frequently activity-related, may be present in one or both knees.
When the syndrome is advanced, your kneecap may get stuck in the process when you straighten your knee.
Females are more likely to get PFPS, especially the ones who are athletes.
What leads to PFPS?
A knee with Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) hurts because of the increased fluid in the joint or swelling in the tissues. It interferes with the motion of the knee and can cause increased friction in the joint when the knee moves.
Older adults may experience age-related changes that cause the cartilage on the under surface of the kneecap to wear out, resulting in pain and difficulty in completing daily tasks without pain.
Current research indicates that PFPS is an “overuse syndrome,” which means that it may result from repetitive or excessive use of the knee. Other contributing factors may include:
- Weakness, tightness, or stiffness in the muscles around the knee and hip.
- An abnormality in the way the lower leg lines up with the hip, knee, and foot.
- Improper tracking of the kneecap.
- Sudden changes to exercise or training programmes.
- Being overweight.
It is important to distinguish PFPS from patellar tendonitis, which is an entirely different injury with a different treatment—patellar tendonitis manifests as pain into the tendon that connects the kneecap to your shin, the patellar tendon.
How can you prevent PFPS?
The bad news is that PFPS can be caused easily, however, the good news is that certain preventions actually work to dodge its onset.
- Wearing shoes appropriate to your activities.
- Warming up thoroughly before physical activity.
- Incorporating stretching and flexibility exercises for the quadriceps and hamstrings into your warm-up routine, and stretching after physical activity.
- Increasing training gradually.
- Reducing any activity that has hurt your knees in the past.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight to avoid overstressing your knees.
You should walk and do other exercises that move your knee joints. You are likely to find that the stiffness, pain, and fatigue improve with exercise.
If you still feel like you are dealing with PFPS, you must seek professional help immediately.
Usually, your doctor will be able to diagnose PFPS with just a physical examination. In most cases, however, he or she also will order an x-ray to rule out damage to the structure of the knee and to the tissues that connect to it.
What is the treatment for PFPS?
Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) will require a lot of patience from you when you will be undergoing treatment to eliminate it altogether. It can take six weeks or more for your knee or knees to heal.
These tips will work wonders to find relief:
- Avoid sitting, squatting, or kneeling in the bent-knee position for long periods of time.
- Adjust a bicycle or exercise bike so that the resistance is not too great and the seat is at an appropriate height.
- The rider should be able to spin the pedals of an exercise bike without shifting weight from side to side. And the rider’s legs should not be fully extended at the lowest part of the pedal stroke.
- Avoid bent-knee exercises, such as squats or deep knee bends.
Other methods to relieve pain include:
- Taking nonprescription anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, to decrease swelling, stiffness, and pain. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Ice therapy and lots of rest. You can also try heat therapy to see if it helps.
- Physical therapy exercises. Exercises may include stretching to increase flexibility and decrease tightness around the knee, and straight-leg raises and other exercises to strengthen the quadriceps muscle.
- Taping or using a brace to stabilize the kneecap.
Frozen vegetables, such as peas, will also work if you have no ice available for knee therapy.
Wrap your knee with a compression bandage to prevent swelling, but not so tightly it cuts off circulation.
While you’re resting, keep your foot elevated.
Overall, studies show mixed results when it comes to the long-term risks associated with frequent running. Therefore do not let the nickname of PFPS make you hesitant. Put on your comfortable shoes and run that extra mile.