Knee pain - Patellofemoral Syndrome

What is it?

This is a common condition of runners, which occurs when the cartilage of the patella (kneecap) softens, and the cartilage found under the patella become rough. Discomfort and often grinding or crunching sensations can be felt in the knee joint. This condition can affect any age group.

The condition may be referred to as ‘Runner’s knee’, Patellofemoral Syndrome, or Chondromalacia Patella.

What causes it?

This condition develops overtime from the poor tracking of the patella over the knee joint. This can occur because a number of factors, including:

  • excessive pronation, or flattening of the foot as you run or walk
  • poor, structurally unsupportive footwear
  • mechanical conditions including wide hips (especially in females) knock knees, patella alta (high patella) and subluxating patella
  • weakness of the quadriceps muscles, especially the VMO (Vastus Medialis Oblique Muscle) which runs along the inner aspect of the thigh and connects at the knee specific types of training and exercise, e.g. downhill running, or running up stairs as part of training

How is it treated?

The simplest and most effective treatment plans often involve:

  • rest
  • specific leg muscle stretches to decrease pressure and strain on the kneecap
  • strengthening exercises to the quadriceps muscles to improve the control of the kneecap as it glides over the knee joint
  • proper diagnosis of foot function, addressed with orthotics to correct abnormal function
  • avoiding particular exercises
  • physical therapies can also help, such as ultrasound, patella mobilisation, and strapping.