Have you ever experienced knee pain while running? You’re out enjoying nature, feeling good and think to yourself, maybe I’ll go a little farther, or a little faster. You notice a dull, achy pain in the front of your knee – maybe both. You ignore it and keep running. The ache gradually worsens but you keep running. As soon as you stop it starts to feel better, so you think nothing of it. You go home and start to walk up the stairs to take a shower. As you ascend, the pain returns, and you hear a popping or crackling sound in your knee. Being the hardcore runner that you are, you ignore it and keep running over the next week, continuing to experience a dull ache around your patella (kneecap) that pops up every time you run and feels better at rest.
You may have a common sports injury known as patellofemoral pain syndrome or PFPS for short.
What exactly is PFPS?
First, let’s take a look at the anatomy of the knee.
The knee is made up of the lower end of the femur (thighbone), the upper end of the tibia (shinbone) and the patella (kneecap). Muscles are connected to bones by tendons. The anterior thigh muscles (quadriceps) are connected via the quadriceps tendon to the patella. The quadricep muscle allows you to straighten your knee. The patellar tendon connects the patella to the tibia. The patella rests in the trochlea (a groove) on the top of the femur and moves up and down inside this groove when you bend and straighten your knee.
PFPS is caused by vigorous physical activity that puts repeated stress on the knee. For example, running, jumping, squatting and climbing stairs. It can also be caused by a sudden change in physical activity, such as increasing the frequency, duration or intensity. For example, running more days of the week, longer each day, or faster. Lastly, it can be caused by abnormal tracking of the patella in the groove – the patella gets pushed out to the side when the knee is bent. Soft tissues may become irritated by the pressure between the patella and groove.
One of the main causes of poor kneecap tracking is muscular imbalances or weakness. The quadriceps muscle helps to keep the kneecap within the trochlear groove when you bend and straighten your knee. Weak or imbalanced quadriceps or tight hamstrings can cause poor tracking.
Worried about seeing a physiotherapist because you don’t want a health professional saying you have to stop running? By visiting a qualified physiotherapist, they can guide you through your injury from diagnosis to return to full activity. Rather than being told to take X amount of time off, a physiotherapist will use therapeutic exercise, manual therapy and acupuncture to guide you through an active recovery process. They will ensure your kneecap is properly tracking and aid in fixing your muscular imbalances so you can begin to safely and gradually increase your
running frequency, duration and intensity.
Book an appointment with a physiotherapist at a Panther Sports Clinic in Calgary today!