Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
What it is and how to treat it
By Dr. Zainab Kothari PT, DPT, MS
Patellofemoral pain (PFP) is a condition characterized by pain of unknown origin that is located anterior, behind, or around the patella (knee cap). Onset of symptoms can be slow or acute with worsening caused by following activities- ascending/descending stairs, squatting, jumping, running (especially hills), prolonged sitting.
BMI, knee structure, and foot posture have been blamed in the past as risk factors for development of PFP, but no conclusive evidence supporting those claims is found in literature. PFP is more commonly noted in female adolescents, but adults can also develop this condition. Hip and knee muscle weakness and a decrease in force production by those muscle groups are commonly noted in this population. Occasionally, abnormal knee mechanics and gait pattern can also contribute to the symptoms. People who have high pain levels for longer duration and ones who are asked to rest and avoid aggravating activities completely tend to have poorer outcomes. Orthoses and braces do not help in resolution of the condition in the long run. If needed, they should not be worn for >6 weeks.
So, what is a more appropriate course of action? Follow up with a Physical Therapist (PT) who can evaluate and establish your baseline function and guide you with an individualized exercise program focusing on improving hip and knee strength, improving movement coordination, and improving gait if applicable to help you resume your previous function. Your PT can educate you on safe activities and still keep you moving in the short term with minimal to no pain.
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