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Common Injuries and Treatments

Ankle / Elbow / Hip / Knee / Shoulder / Spine / Wrist



Patellofemoral Syndrome

What is patellofemoral syndrome?

Patellofemoral syndrome is a group of symptoms most commonly reported as pain and irritation in and around the kneecap. The kneecap's (patella) primary role is to act as a lever to facilitate quadriceps (the muscle on the front of thigh) strength. There is a bony groove on the thigh bone (femur) that helps to guide the movement of the kneecap.  this is called the patellofemoral joint.  As the knee bends and straightens, the kneecap normally moves up and down in this groove. 

What causes injuries to this tissue?

Because of its connections to the surrounding ligaments, tendons, muscles and fibrous tissue, there are many factors that affect the kneecap. Too much or too little motion in these tissues can impact the alignment and path of the kneecap through the groove. Malalignment can cause irritation or pain to the kneecap. Furthermore, the alignment of the knee joint is strongly influenced by the strength and alignment of the hip joint above and the ankle joint below. Weakness, too much or too little motion in the hip and/or ankle joints can lead the knee to taking more stress than it can handle, leading to symptoms. 

What is the best treatment approach?

Physical therapy has been shown to be effective in treating patellofemoral syndrome.  See below for details.  Other treatments may include medication, rest, bracing, massage therapy, activity modification and sport specific functional training.

What will the role of physical therapy be in this process?

Physical therapy for this area focuses on reducing the irritation to the tissue at and around the knee. A thorough evaluation of the biomechanics of the knee, hip and ankle is important to identify all of the factors influencing the patellofemoral joint. Physical therapy can include stretching and strengthening exercises, as well as soft tissue massage and joint mobilization. 

Will other services be helpful in taking care of this?

Underlying muscle tightness and soft tissue restrictions that are found to be related to patellofemoral syndrome may be helped by massage therapy work.  Acupuncture can also be of assistance with the pain associated with these conditions.  Sport specific training can be initiated by physical therapists and progressed by personal trainers to allow a more thorough preparation for return to sport.  After your initial physical therapy evaluation, your physical therapist will help to determine if these services may be helpful. 

Need More?

If you have more clinical questions about this condition, please click here to email our Director of Clinical Operations, Jessica Douglas, MSPT, OCS, or you can get more information by searching our blog.

If you'd like a complimentary injury screen with one of our licensed physical therapists to discuss your condition, please contact us.

If you're ready to make an appointment for any of our services, please contact us.

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