Know the Signs of “Runner’s Knee”: Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

What is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?

This syndrome is really a vague term that encompasses multiple different conditions of anterior knee pain. You may have heard of it as Runner’s knee or Jumper’s knee. In this condition, pain can be located in a number of places including inferior pole of patella (most common), tibial tuberosity (bump at top of shin bone) and superior pole of patella. The pain that occurs is a result of inflammation at the tendon attachment site to the bone.

Why does this Occur?

Most common causes of patella femoral pain include overuse of the area, muscle weakness/imbalance, and trauma. This happens because tendons in our bodies grow and adapt to stress, but they need recovery time to repair before further stress is applied. A.K.A – when you over-work your knees/legs, make sure to stretch and rest before over-working again.

The onset of the pain is a result of repetitive stress on the tendon greater than the rate of the tendon’s ability to recover. This is why rest days, or alternating with low-impact workouts are important to include in your routine. 

Pain can also present due to muscular imbalance or weakness. When performing movements such as activities of daily living or more specific exercises such as squats, deadlifts, cleans, snatches, etc. proper technique is not only critical for moving more weight, but also to avoid injury.

Get a Physical Exam

It is important to check with your healthcare provider at PA Pain & Spine to receive a thorough physical exam in order to determine if your knee pain could be contributed to additional issues. 

These additional issues may include:

  • Mobility: ankle, knee, hip, low back, thoracic spine
  • Imbalance: quads or posterior chain
  • Weakness: abductors, low back, or hamstrings
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Internal Derangement: Meniscus Tear, ACL injury

Finally, is direct trauma to blame? This may be the most obvious to those experiencing the injury because it is a sudden and easily identifiable cause/change via a direct blow, fall, surgery, etc. 

How do I Know this is what I'm Dealing with?

Patellofemoral pain (knee pain) commonly presents with local tenderness directly at the attachment site of the tendon to the bone. A quick test for this involves performing a few quick jumps in place resulting in increased pain in the front of the knee. 

Trying some isometric holds, wall sits, single leg wall sits, spanish squats for multiple sets and then retesting the jumps can also help determine the issue. The front knee pain should decrease temporarily following these isometrics after increased muscle activation.

If you decide to try this test at home and pain persists, be sure to contact your local provider for further evaluation.

How do I Treat my Knee Pain?

Ask for help! The most important first step is scheduling an appointment with your provider in order to discuss your history and physical exam. This is essential in order to establish a targeted treatment plan moving forward. We can always adjust the treatment plan depending on your pain generator etiologies and set goals as we move forward. 

Treatment options for knee pain can also apply to most of the joints in the body (shoulders, hips, elbows, even joint and disc pain in the spine).

Discuss the following treatment options at your next appointment to see which option is best for you!

  • Corticosteroid injections for inflammation, pain, osteoarthritis
  • Viscosupplementation series for knee osteoarthritis and internal derangement
  • Regenerative therapies including: Prolotherapy for tendon pain, Plasma Rich Protein (PRP), Stem Cell injections.

Don’t be afraid of your knee pain! Know the signs, work to prevent injury, and call us if pain does not subside!

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