Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is a condition that affects the knee joint, specifically the patella (kneecap) and the femur (thigh bone). It is characterised by pain and discomfort in the front of the knee, around and under the patella. The pain is often described as a dull ache, but can also be sharp or stabbing. It can be aggravated by activities such as walking, running, climbing stairs, or sitting for long periods of time.
The cause of PFPS is not well understood, but it is thought to be a result of a combination of factors.
Some of the potential causes and risk factors
- Overuse or repetitive stress on the knee joint – This can occur in individuals who participate in activities that involve a lot of knee flexion and extension, such as running, cycling, or stair climbing.
- Altered biomechanics – This can occur in individuals with poor muscle balance, weakness, or tightness in the muscles that support the knee joint. This can lead to a misalignment of the patella, which can put extra stress on the joint.
- Trauma or injury – A direct blow or injury to the knee can cause inflammation and pain in the patellofemoral joint.
- Osteoarthritis – This is a degenerative condition that can occur in the patellofemoral joint.
- Obesity – Being overweight or obese can put extra stress on the knee joint, which can increase the risk of developing PFPS.
The symptoms of PFPS can vary from person to person, but common symptoms include knee pain and discomfort, especially in the front of the knee. Pain may be worse during activities that involve a lot of knee flexion and extension, such as running, cycling, or stair climbing. The knee may also feel stiff and achy after prolonged sitting or standing.
Diagnosis of PFPS typically involve a physical examination by a doctor or a physiotherapist, where they will check for pain, swelling, tenderness and range of motion in the knee. They may also order imaging tests such as X-ray, MRI or CT scan to rule out other potential causes of knee pain.
How can physiotherapy help?
Once a biomechanical assessment is completed, physiotherapy could be a highly effective treatment for individuals with PFPS. A physiotherapist can assess the individual’s condition and create a personalised treatment plan that addresses the specific needs and goals of the individual. The treatment plan may include a combination of the following techniques:
- Stretching and Strengthening Exercises – Stretching and strengthening exercises are important in the management of PFPS. Stretching exercises can help to improve flexibility and range of motion in the knee, while strengthening exercises can help to improve the strength and stability of the knee joint.
- Physiotherapists often review the patient’s kinetic chain to determine if there is any muscle imbalance elsewhere in the body that could be contributing to the knee pain. Often it could be related to poor glute (buttock) strength, tightness of the muscles surrounding the knees such as the Quadriceps. Often patella maltracking could be a cause of PFPS as the quadriceps muscles are weaker on one side compared to the other.
- Manual Therapy – Manual therapy techniques such as massage, joint mobilisation, and soft tissue mobilisation can help to reduce pain and inflammation in the knee joint.
- Taping and Bracing – Taping and bracing techniques can help to provide support and stability to the knee joint, and can also help to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Education and Advice – A physiotherapist can provide education and advice on how to manage and prevent symptoms of PFPS. This may include advice on how to perform activities of daily living, how to modify activities that aggravate the knee, and how to maintain a healthy weight.
- Dry Needling – Dry needling is a technique that uses thin needles to stimulate the muscles and soft tissues to help reduce pain, muscle tension and spasm.
Overall, physiotherapy can be an effective treatment for individuals with PFPS. It can help to reduce pain and inflammation, improve flexibility and range of motion, and improve the strength and stability of the knee joint. At Home Physio Group, our physiotherapists can help individuals with PFPS return to their normal activities and continue to enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle.
For more information please contact us on 0207 096 0684 or alternatively please fill out our contact sheet and we will get back to you.