Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome - An Introduction

23 September 2015

As many as one in three young adults experience knee pain at some point. One of the most common causes of this is Patellofemoral pain syndrome, which can also affect labourers and athletes, among others. It can have a negative effect on your quality of life, but luckily there are several ways the pain can be managed, or eliminated altogether.

What is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is a general term for pain in the front of the knee. This can happen either when cartilage within the knee joint is damaged or the kneecap becomes misaligned. The extent of the pain can range from very mild to severe, and everyday movements such as walking up and down stairs can exacerbate it. You may also feel pain during activities such as sitting for long periods of time with bent knees, squatting or jumping.  You may also hear popping or crackling sounds coming from your knee when you bend it. 

How does this happen?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is thought to be caused by the wearing down, roughening or softening of the cartilage under the kneecap, caused by imbalances in the muscles surrounding the knee. A weakness in the thigh or buttock muscles, or tight hamstrings, can put too much pressure on the cartilage and lead to discomfort. Weak quadriceps (front of the thigh) muscles can also affect proper knee alignment and lead to pain. Suddenly increasing your activity level is another factor that could lead to knee pain, such as running more often or for longer. 

Treatment Options for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

One of the best ways to treat this condition is to strengthen some of the muscles surrounding the knee so that the cartilage is not put under as much pressure and worn down, especially the quadriceps. The pain can be relieved by avoiding activities that make it worse, and avoiding sitting, squatting or kneeling in a bent-knee position for long periods of time. Painkillers can help with pain to some extent, but anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen haven't been proven to be any more successful than analgesics such as paracetamol. 

Low impact sports can be successful at improving knee pain, such as swimming, though contact sports like rugby should probably be avoided until symptoms lessen. Taping the knee, or using a brace, could also help to stabilise the joint and reduce discomfort. Surgery is not usually advised and only recommended as a last resort, as you should be able to minimise the pain without it.

What Products can Help with Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?

A doctor or physiotherapist will be able to give you exercises that can strengthen the muscles around your knee joint. It may take several weeks to notice any progress if you have severe muscle imbalances to start with but long term you will appreciate the benefits. Resistance exercises that can build up your quadriceps muscles can be done with the Escape Fitness Sandbags which come in a range of weights.

Giving extra support to the knee, and preventing it from becoming misaligned, is also a great idea and can be helped with items such as a knee brace or wrap. If you want to continue playing sport you should consider the Donjoy Deluxe Hinged Knee Brace which will keep you safe during activity.

Browse the whole range of Knee Supports and Braces on the Think Sport website to see which model is right for you.