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Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) or runner’s knee is an overuse injury which causes pain at the front of the knee. The patellofemoral joint is the joint between the patella or knee cap and the femur or thigh bone. The repetitive nature of running can cause irritation of this joint leading to knee pain. Pain will often come on gradually and can worsen with continued training.
Runner’s knee may also occur after a trauma e.g. a fall onto the knee. This pain is often irritated by squatting, prolonged sitting, stair climbing and, of course, running (Crossley et al 2012). It is usually relieved at least temporarily with rest. This does not only affect runners but can affect hill walkers, cyclists or those involved in other sports.
So why do some runners get knee pain and others don’t? Those with PFPS have been found to have weaker muscles in the hip and around the knee. This can mean that the running pattern isn’t as efficient leading to strain on the knee joint. Poor alignment of the leg and poor biomechanics of the foot are also common. Other factors such as sudden changes in training duration or intensity can cause the development of this condition.
Physiotherapy can be very helpful for this condition. At Ballsbridge Physiotherapy Clinic your physiotherapist will complete a thorough assessment. This can include checking the mobility of the hip and knee, assessing the strength of the hip and knee muscles and looking at the foot position. Your physiotherapist will also ask you about your footwear and training habits.
Treatment will depend what is found in your examination. It may include exercise therapy to strengthen the muscles of the hip and knee. Exercise therapy has consistently been found to be helpful in reducing pain and improving function in those with PFPS. Strengthening exercise for the buttock and hip muscles have been shown to be more effective for treating runner’s knee than strengthening for the quadriceps muscles of the thigh (Khayambashi et al 2014)
Dry needling can be helpful to alleviate muscles tightness and orthotics may be prescribed to address foot biomechanics. Your training schedule may need to be altered to reduce the pressure on the knee. This multi-modal approach addressing all the factors contributing to the pain has been shown to be very helpful for getting you back on track and pain free as soon as possible.