Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) describes pain on and around the kneecap. It is also sometimes called anterior knee pain syndrome or “runner’s knee”, because it is common in runners and active individuals. In general, patellofemoral pain syndrome occurs when the patella does not move or track smoothly which affects proper alignment on the femur (i.e. thigh bone) when the knee is bent.
Symptoms for PFPS include aching and front of the knee pain that may be provoked by bending the knee, climbing stairs or sitting for long periods of time with the knee bent. There are several risk factors for PFPS including repetitive deep knee bending, flat feet, technical errors in running or sports, tight illiotibial band, muscle imbalances as well as weak thigh and gluteal muscles.
You should seek medical attention if you have severe knee pain associated with inability to put weight on the affected leg, severe swelling, or onset of numbness or weakness of the lower leg.
To prevent PFPS, avoid excessive training or sudden increases in physical activity level. Muscles that are involved in running and other lower limb sports should be adequately strengthened, so that they can meet the demands of your sporting and daily activities. Avoid rapid increases in volume or speed of running.
You should also check that your shoes are not worn-out excessively as they may not provide adequate support or shock absorption. Choose a shoe with a correct fit that is suitable for your foot type.
Your doctor will take your medical history and perform a physical examination to determine the cause of your knee pain. Imaging tests may be ordered, although PFPS typically does not require imaging to be diagnosed and the X-rays may be normal. You may also be asked to run on a treadmill so that your gait can be assessed.
Treatments that your doctor may recommend include:
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