Running Blog Series – Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

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Patellofemoral pain syndrome is considered the most common running related injury, affecting 2.5 million runners a year! With such a vast number of people encountering this injury we thought it was the most appropriate place to start our running blog…so on your marks, get set, let’s go!

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (or PFPS for short) is a complex andPatella Femoral Pain sensitive condition which presents as pain in and around the knee cap (patella). It is usually aggravated by activities that load the patellofemoral joint including:

  • Lunging
  • Squatting
  • Kneeling
  • Running – particularly downhill as this exerts more stress on the joint as your quads work to control your acceleration.
  • Prolonged periods in sitting- otherwise known as ‘movie goers sign’. It is also a great excuse to avoid any drawn-out work meetings, but don’t say we told you!

Unlike many other knee injuries, locking, giving-way and swelling are not common in PFPS. You may have some clicking and it might feel stiff to move the joint, but you should be able to move it through a normal range.

The exact cause of PFPS (as with most things recently!) is debatable. But it is thought to be due to several factors including muscle tightness, weakness, malalignment and errors in training.

So, here’s the important part…what can we do to get you back out on the roads and maximising your running potential!?

Reduce Load- Initially it might be key to reduce load either by modifying or reducing aggravating movements. This is where the mantra ‘no pain no gain’ does not apply! For some of you this may mean stopping running for a period until your symptoms reduce, for others we suggest you adopt the more appropriate moto of ‘pain free running’. Don’t be alarmed! This isn’t a ‘no running life sentence’ Activity can be reintroduced, but this should be gradual, guidance from a specialist is essential and we’re on hand to help you out!

Optimising training- I know you’ve probably heard this song before…Too much, too soon, too little rest! But as with most running injuries, PFPS can be caused by increasing distance, frequency of sessions, speed and intensity of training without allowing adequate time for your body to adapt to these changes. It all starts with the right training program and regardless of your goals, our therapists are trained to give you expert advice on the right program for you.

Movement Control and Running Biomechanics- Muscle strength, timing of muscle contractions, single leg balance, foot mechanics and running gait are just a few from a vast list of factors that can contribute to the onset of PFPS. A full biomechanical screen will highlight any issues and inform your rehab.

Improve Flexibility – Tightness of the tissues around the knee can affect how the patella moves and potentially increase the load upon it. Stretches that target the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calfs (to name a few) are important to maintain joint range of movement in the leg and keep the patella happy. In addition to this, foam rollers are a brilliant tool to increase tissue pliability and improve joint flexibility. We understand many of you will have a love-hate relationship with rollers but trust us- you have all to gain by using them- the mantra ‘no pain, no gain’ is completely relevant here!

Stay Tuned for Part 3 where we discuss iliotibial band syndrome….

 

Author: Rachel Jones I Physiotherapist BSc (Hons), MCSP
Rachel has a breath of experience working as a musculoskeletal Physiotherapist in both the NHS and private sector. She is passionate about offering only the highest quality care and believes an accurate diagnosis, confident hands on treatment and appropriate self-management advice is key to helping people lead happy, pain free lives.

She exudes positivity and prides herself on being an enthusiastic and empathetic Physiotherapist. Rachel is there to listen and strives to form strong partnerships with all her clients so they can work together to achieve their rehab goals

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