Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
Patellofemoral pain syndrome is a common knee disorder that most often affects runners and athletes involved in jumping activities. It also strikes the senior athlete whose bones and ligaments have become weaker through sporting injuries and wear and tear over a long period of time.
Structural alignment, muscular weakness in the knee, imbalance, overuse, muscular tightness and “flat feet” are such causes of patellofemoral pain. In the case of muscular weakness, this may cause the kneecap (known as the patella) to place itself improperly on the thigh bone (known as the femur). All of these knee conditions lead to pain around the kneecap. This pain tends to worsen with activity (such as going down stairs) and it may also create pain in the kneecap during lull periods of inactivity. This intense, dull, aching knee pain may occur in one or both knees.
Other terms for patellofemoral pain are: retropatellar pain, peripatellar pain, anterior knee pain, and “runner’s knee.”
Different disorders that cause pain around the kneecap include:
- Infrapatellar tendonitis: this is known as “jumpers knee" and affects the tendon just below the kneecap
- Chondromalacia patella: This affects the tendon attachment just above the patella and involves damage to the cartilage surface of the patellaquadriceps tendonitis
- Plica syndrome: This occurs when tissues within the knee joint become inflamed and/or stiff, causing pain and tightness in the joint
Symptoms of patellofemoral pain syndrome include an intense, dull, aching pain, in and around the kneecap. Running down stairs, squatting, sitting for a long period of time with the knees bent and then standing will all cause the generalized dull kneecap pain associated with this condition. Swelling of the knee may exist and a crackling noise coming from the knee may also occur during movement.
Despite all of the variables that might cause the pain surrounding patellofemoral pain syndrome, there are some things patients can do to ease the symptoms. Here are some recommendations:
- Get plenty of rest
- Consider turning to non-impact exercise, such as swimming, to continue on a fitness regime, yet allowing your knee(s) to heal
- Wear high quality, shock-absorbed running shoes
- Icing the knees after exercise
- Taking anti-inflammatory pain medication for swelling and pain relief
- Adhere to a physical therapy regime specifically designed to treat Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
When conservative treatment and therapy has failed to relieve and alleviate symptoms, knee surgery can be considered as a last resort. Dr. Millett will perform arthroscopic surgery to examine and treat the inside of the knee joint. During the procedure, rough or frayed spots in the cartilage will be shaved and smoothed and plica can be trimmed. The patella may also be realigned. Arthroscopic knee surgery is performed on an out-patient basis.
For more information on patellofemoral pain syndrome, or for additional resources on orthopedic knee surgery, please contact Dr. Peter J. Millett of Vail, CO.