Patellofemoral syndrome treatment starts with identifying its cause. The story you tell your doctor can often give this away. Did you start a new activity? Are you playing on two teams rather than one this season? Have you had a recent leg injury? Are you pregnant? Have you recently been ill? Have you recently moved with the associated stair climbing, squatting and carrying of bundles? These questions can lead to the cause of your symptoms.
Your doctor’s exam can then help confirm their suspicions or help identify additional causes. Is there weakness, grinding (Crepitus), instability? Finally, imaging studies can show arthritis in the knee cap joint. This signifies unhealthy cartilage and a potential cause as well.
Patellofemoral Syndrome Treatment
Like most medical problems, once a diagnosis and cause is known, the appropriate patellofemoral syndrome treatment plan can be developed. With runner’s knee, the treatment plan is designed to reverse the causes that are reversible. Almost always, this can be done without surgery. The most common causes of this problem are: too much deep knee activities, relative weakness and increased weight. Therefore patellofemoral syndrome treatment usually consists of the following Four R’s:
- Relative Rest. Avoid any activities that cause pain when doing the activity or afterwards. Primarily these are activities performed with a bent knee and/or those involving carrying additional weight.
- Reduction of pain, inflammation and swelling. Pain is always present. Inflammation and swelling occasionally are. Both of these can lead to further pain. All of these symptoms can cause reflexive weakness. They can also be frustrating and can limit one’s ability to stick to the program. If we can reduce these, often that’s enough to gain positive momentum. Usually oral and/or topical antiinflammatories are all that is needed.
- Rehabilitation. Most frequently this problem occurs because you “asked” your knee to do more than it was “in shape” to do. Therefore, physical therapy or a home exercise program designed to increase your capacity for “work” will often be needed. Usually the program is focused on pain-free strengthening of your core, pelvis and hips.
- Return slowly. There is no particular amount of activity that is appropriate for each person. Since rest is usually prescribed during treatment, you may be in worse “shape” initially after treatment than you were before. If you return to your activities at the level you became symptomatic or progress too quickly after recovering, the symptoms are likely to return. Going slow helps prevent this. Also if you “overshoot” at low levels of activity, it won’t set you back too much.
Runner’s knee is a common painful problem that usually comes from overdoing bent knee activities. Fortunately, it is often easily treated – without surgery. So if your suffering from pain in the front of your knee, it is a good idea to see your sports medicine knee specialist and get started on your patellofemoral syndrome treatment program.