Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, or PFPS for short, is an umbrella term for general knee pain in the front of the knee. PFPS does not usually have a mechanism for injury, instead it comes on gradually. A couple things that aggravate this injury include squatting, stairs, walking, or any activity after you have been seated for a prolonged period of time. Doing any of these activities may cause general pain in the front of the knee that is hard to pin-point.
PFPS can be caused by multiple factors including, but not limited to; collapsing arches, weak vastus medialis (quad muscle closest to the inside of your thigh), tight fascia on the outside of your knee cap called the lateral retinaculum or a tight IT band. All of these factors will result in poor alignment of your knee cap, increased pressure and irritation around your knee cap and poor tracking mechanisms of your knee cap.
When you straighten your leg by contracting your thigh, your knee cap should move in a “J” shape motion moving closer to the inside of your thigh and then straight up towards your hip. When it tracks this way, it slides perfectly into the groove and you experience little friction. The knee cap, or patella, is pulled to the inside of your leg because of the vastus lateralis muscle (VMO). If this muscle isn’t firing properly or if your vastus lateralis muscle (VLO) is pulling first or pulling harder, your patella is not going to fall into the groove behind your knee cap and will cause friction and irritation. Every time you straighten your leg, whether doing squats or simply from walking, your patella is tracking in that groove. So imagine if you aren’t tracking properly… that is a lot of repetitions causing a lot of friction and irritation.
So how do you fix this..? You can help to correct where your knee cap sits at rest by keeping your VLO and IT band loose. This can be done using a roller over the outside of your leg. You can correct your patellar tracking by making sure your VMO is not only firing fully but also that it is firing before the other quad muscles. You can do this by slowly contracting your quad and watching if your VMO is firing first. If it is not firing first, you are going to tap the muscle, yes tap it, for 10-15 seconds. By doing this, you are sending signals to the brain to remind the muscle to fire. After you have tapped for 10-15 seconds, try contracting again slowly and see if it is corrected. Patience is key with this exercise. You are not going to retrain the firing pattern of your muscles in a day or even in weeks, retraining this habit will take a long time but if you are patient you will see results!!!
Written by Brodie Lefaivre, Certified Athletic Therapists
If you are experiencing knee pain similar to this, don’t wait and hope for it to go away on it’s own- call our clinic and book in with Brodie herself or another one of our talented therapists to get you on the road to recovery! Don’t spend any more time experiencing unnecessary pain. Let us help! Call 403-252-6222 or email [email protected] for more information.