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What is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?

Updated: May 10, 2022

Written by: Dr. Stephanie Soto, PT, DPT of The Green Room PT

If you have pain in the front of your knee with activities like walking, getting in and out of a chair, squatting, or even running, this article is for you! I will be taking a deep dive on knee anatomy and give you a glimpse on what thoughts are running through our mind during your first initial evaluation here at the Green Room.

Your knee joint is made up of a few different structures. We have your thigh bone (femur) that connects to your leg bone (tibia). There are several structures that help those bones move and even restrict certain movements, like the meniscus and ligaments. At the top of our knees, we have our knee cap which is called the patella. The top of the patella is connected to our quadricep tendon, and the button of the patella is connected to our patella tendon. All in all, there is a lot going on in the knee!

Your symptoms and what you tell us during your initial evaluation is probably the most important aspect of differentiating between where we think the pain is coming from. For example, pain that is localized to the bottom of the patella that is more caused by jumping is most likely related to the patellar tendon. Pain that is more on the outside of the knee that is felt with the foot twisting in and out or with running or biking is most likely related to the IT band (see Dr. Lisa’s blog post!).

Pain that is more diffuse, or all over the knee and difficult to pinpoint, and is felt with less intense activities such as walking, going up and down the stairs, squatting, and even running, is most likely due to Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome! Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) means pain around the patellofemoral joint, or where the patella sits on top of the femur. It is most common in younger women, but it can happen at any age and in any sex.

The good thing is, PFPS is very common and can easily be treated with exercise! The first step for rehab is to target all the joints around the knee to help decrease the pain and get your body used to moving again! We want to make sure we get the pain down first, before we start doing exercises that target the knee muscles specifically. Below are a few examples of exercises.

  • Glute bridge: 3 sets of 8-12 reps. Push through the floor and squeeze your butt muscles to bring your hips towards the ceiling.

  • Clamshell: 3 sets of 8-12 reps. Keep your hips rotated forward and pay attention to if you are feeling muscle working more towards the back of your hips. You should feel it more towards the back, not directly on the side.

  • Heel raise: 3 sets of 10-15 reps. Push through the floor and bring your heels off the floor.

  • Plank with leg lift: 3 sets of 5-6 on each side. In a plank, lift one leg up towards the ceiling.

These exercises should definitely help get you started with your rehab, but be sure to check in with your Physical Therapist on when/how you should start introducing knee exercises to get those muscles stronger so you can get back to doing the things you love!

To request a free in-person or phone consultation with one of our Therapists about your suspected PFPS or any other issue, feel free to do so by following the link here!

Clifton Park & Troy

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