The knee is the largest joint in the body and it is composed of the femur (thigh bone), tibia (leg bone), and patella (knee cap). The knee cap rests on the sulcus of the thigh bone and articulate smoothly with it. Patellofemoral pain syndrome, commonly known as runner’s knee, is the misalignment of the knee cap against the thigh bone which causes tracking disorder during knee movement.
The main symptom of patellofemoral pain syndrome is a diffuse pain or stiffness at the knee cap and its surrounding soft tissue. Pain is worse when the knee undergoes flexion and extension motions such as kneeling, climbing stairs, running, jumping and cycling. Grinding or clicking sensations can also be felt at times. Sitting in a bent knee position for too long may also trigger pain, such as in the cinema or on a plane.
The most common cause of patellofemoral pain syndrome is poor biomechanical function of the lower limb (i.e. the way your leg functions whist walking and exercising). This can be due to a poor control around the hip and/or poor foot function (such as flat feet).
Some factors which can contribute to worsening of the syndrome are:
Diagnosing patellofemoral pain syndrome requires physical examination and gait analysis. Imaging such as X-rays can be helpful in ruling out chondromalacia patella (knee cap arthritis), which is often associated with patellofemoral pain syndrome.
Treatment often involve:
Stretching and strengthening exercises
Conservative treatments are mostly sufficient to heal this syndrome; surgery is only required if non-invasive treatment fails. If you suspect that you have patellofemoral pain syndrome, it is advisable to visit your podiatrist for a proper diagnosis and treatment before the condition worsens and impairs your sports and daily activities.
Author: Podiatrist Louis LOY
Editor: Principal Podiatrist Michael LAI