One of the more common injuries we see with young athletes but can happen to any active individual is anterior knee pain, or what is known as patellofemoral pain syndrome or PFPS.
PFPS is an irritation on the undersurface of the knee cap. Most people with this condition will complain of pain along the inside or outside of the kneecap or directly below the kneecap. These symptoms are more commonly brought on with walking down stairs, prolonged sitting, squatting or activity usually involving running or jumping.
So what causes PFPS?
Even though pain is felt at the knee, the knee is not usually the culprit. One of the more common causes is weakness in certain muscles of the hip. These particular muscles control the mechanics of the knee, and with weakness, they cause the femur (or upper leg bone) to internally rotate and adduct causing the kneecap to track outside of its normal groove. This will cause much irritation and stress to this joint.
Another common cause of this condition is pronated feet, or flat feet. This will internally rotate the tibia (or lower leg bone) also causing the kneecap to track outside of its groove. There are other factors which can contribute to this condition. The more common factors are knock knees or tight hamstrings.
So how does one treat this condition? First, you want to make sure to reduce the pain and inflammation….this may involve resting and avoiding painful activities. Then we want to focus on what the true cause is. If this condition is secondary to weakness in the hip muscles, we want to strengthen the hip and gluteal muscles which will in turn correct the faulty knee mechanics. We will also focus on stretching any tight musculature. If flat feet are the problem, a proper foot evaluation will be performed. We want to make sure you are wearing proper shoes with good support. Otherwise, foot orthotics can be used to correct the problem and lead to proper knee mechanics.
Although this condition does not have an overnight fix, it is definitely treatable with the right diagnosis and proper treatment method. We have seen tremendous results with this condition by implementing the correct treatment plan. If you, or someone you know, are having knee pain with activity, contact your family physician or physical therapist and let them help you get you back to pain-free activity!