Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) is a broad term used to describe pain in the front of the knee. Also known as “runner’s knee” or “jumper’s knee”, PFPS is caused by vigorous physical activities that put repeated stress on the knee, such as jogging, squatting, and climbing stairs. In almost all cases there is evidence of a sudden increase in training frequency or load prior to the onset of symptoms.
PFPS occurs when nerves sense pain around the soft tissues around the patella. These tissues include tendons, ligaments, fat pad and synovial tissue that lines the knee joint. In some cases of PFPS, chondromalacia is present. This is where a softening and breakdown of the articular cartilage occurs. Chondromalacia Patellae specifically refers to loss of articular cartilage on the underside of the patella. Note: articular cartilage and meniscus do not contain pain nerves.
Why does Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome occur?
- Increased training frequency, intensity or duration
- Patella Malalignment
- Muscle imbalances around the hip and knee
- Malalignment of the lower limb between the hip and foot
- Improper training techniques or equipment
- Previous injury to other lower limb structures (bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons & muscles)
Usually a combination of massage, dry needling, foam rolling, taping and stretches to specific lower limb muscles will provide immediate short term relief of pain. However, muscle imbalances/weakness can only be corrected by strength training, which should form the bulk of rehabilitation.