Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome is a common knee complaint of not only the young and nimble, but also amongst the elderly. To break it down, this can be best referred to as pain felt behind your kneecap, where your patella (kneecap) joins to your thigh bone (femur). This part of your knee is referred to as your patellofemoral joint.
Your patella should glide up and down through the femoral groove during normal movement. When the patella moves to one side more than the other due to muscle imbalances or poor biomechanics it is unable to align and track smoothly on the femur, consequently rubbing against the femur and increasing pressure in the joint. Over time, poor alignment of the patella can lead to kneecap pain, joint irritation, and can eventually result in the degeneration of the surface of your patellofemoral joint.
Although aching kneecaps, especially discomfort behind the kneecap, can impact up to 25% of the population at some point in their lives, patellofemoral pain occurs commonly in athletes. This particular condition is typically found in activities that involve jumping, running and squatting. These sports may include running, tennis, basketball, football and netball. It also commonly occurs when an individual’s activity load increases, for example when starting a new sport, gym program, or with additional training before a competition.
This condition is quite common during adolescence, as our ‘long bones’ tend to grow faster than the muscles, ligaments and tendons, therefore placing abnormal strain and pressure on joints. Stretching and strengthening the appropriate muscles is important to achieve optimal biomechanics throughout our lifespan.
The discomfort that you feel behind your kneecap normally increases gradually, rather than it being instant. For those who suffer from this type of discomfort, it is generally noticed during weight bearing activities that require bending the knee.
Movements such as climbing stairs, hopping, running, kneeling and squatting are commonly painful. As your patellofemoral pain syndrome becomes more severe, it may become painful to walk and then ultimately be painful even at rest.
Musculoskeletal physiotherapy intervention is an effective solution both short and long term for your kneecap pain. The aim of treatment for this conditions is predominately to reduce the ache and inflammation, and to find the underlying cause of the condition to avoid it from reoccurring in the future.