Have you ever experienced aching kneecaps or pain under your kneecap? You may have been experiencing Patellofemoral Pain (PFP).
What is PFP?
PFP is the most common lower limb injury seen in clinical practice and can result in substantial disability and pain.
There are a number of theories as to what causes this painful condition. The most common theory is that the patella (kneecap) moves laterally (side to side) during movement. Usually the patella sits within the femoral condyles (a grove in your knee joints) and glides up and down in this grove as you bend and flex your knee. However, with PFP the patella does not track properly in the grove and starts to move laterally during movement. The pain is the result of contact between the bony surfaces of the patella and underlying femoral condyle, resulting in pain.
The most common causes of misalignment of the patella are tight surrounding muscles, muscle imbalances or poor control of knee movement. For example, research has shown that weakness in the hip abductor and external rotator muscles increases the risk of developing PFP (Onate et al 2016).
What are the Symptoms?
Patients presenting with PFP often report symptoms at the front of their knee and at the back of the kneecap. Usually, the knee is aggravated by activities such as squatting down, walking up and down stairs, running, and sporting activities. However, Symptoms can often be hard to localise and patients will generally not be able to identify a specific cause of their pain.
What is the Treatment?
Taping and manual therapy aimed at correcting the position of the patella has been shown to significantly reduce pain in these patients (Barton et al 2015). The most common taping technique used in clinical practice involves pulling the patella medially (towards the middle) as shown in the picture. At Active Lifestyle Physiotherapy we are experienced in using rigid or kinesio tape to help alleviate PFP, depending on your preference and needs.
In addition to taping and manual therapy, muscle mobility and strengthening is essential for all patients suffering from PFP. Exercise programs targeting the hips and rotator muscles muscles have been shown to reduce pain and improve function. Furthermore, for runners with PFP interventions targeting movement performance, such as squat and landing technique, has been shown to be beneficial (Thomson et al 2016).
If you are experiencing pain in your knee, don’t put up with it and leave it untreated. At Active Lifestyle Physiotherapy, we are experienced with conditions and disorders of the knee, including PFP. We can work with you to get your knee tracking properly and get you back to being pain free.