How To Prevent Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is a term that refers to pain around the kneecap and in the front of the knee. It commonly occurs in individuals who participate in sports, though it can also occur in non-athletes. The groups who most commonly develop this pain are young adults and females. Stiffness and pain make climbing stairs, kneeling, and performing other activities difficult. A number of factors can contribute to the development of this pain. Symptoms can usually be relieved through therapeutic exercises and changes in activity levels. Individuals can take certain precautions to prevent themselves from developing patellofemoral pain syndrome. While it's not guaranteed these things will always prevent patellofemoral pain syndrome, they will significantly reduce an individual's risk level.

Lose Excess Weight

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The knee is the largest joint in the body. Patellofemoral pain syndrome happens when an individual's nervous system senses there's pain in the bone and soft tissues surrounding the kneecap, including the pad of fat underneath the patella, tendons, and tissue lining the joint. With some cases of patellofemoral pain syndrome, weight loss can be helpful. Excess weight can cause strain on the joint and surrounding tissues, which might make the pain worse. With that said, many studies indicate weight isn't always a significant cause of the condition. But patients with patellofemoral pain syndrome will often need to lose weight before they can undergo surgery for knee pain.

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Stretch And Warm Up Before Exercise

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It helps to stretch and warm up before exercise, particularly for athletes, as doing so can reduce tightness and tension in the joint. In addition, stretching can help prevent a number of other potential injuries and complications from exercise. It's common for patellofemoral pain syndrome to be related to a loss of cartilage in the knee. The symptoms might get worse when doing activities that use the knee like running, squatting, cycling, sitting with your knees bent, climbing, or jumping. Individuals can do certain exercises that strengthen the knees surrounding the hips and knees. This helps with muscle balance and alignment. Individuals can do a straight leg lift by lying on their back, keeping their knee straight, and lifting their leg to a forty-five-degree angle. Another exercise is a wall slide, where the individual stands against the wall and slide down until their knees are at a forty-five-degree angle. Individuals can also do an external hip rotation exercise by lying on their side and opening and closing their knees.

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Keep Alignment in Mind

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Patellofemoral pain syndrome can be caused by misalignment in the body. The alignment of the quadriceps between the knee and hip is called the Q angle. Researchers believe this alignment affects an individual's patellar tracking. When a patient's Q angle is larger than twenty degrees, they might be more susceptible to patellofemoral pain syndrome due to the patella's tendency to track toward the outside. In these cases, patients might feel pain around the outside of their femur and patella due to an increase in pressure. When female athletes are growing throughout adolescence, the Q angle grows as their pelvis widens. This increases the overall risk of developing patellofemoral pain.

Individuals should also be particularly aware of their alignment when exercising. It's important to understand where one's hips and knees are in relation to each other during exercise and particular movements. Some individuals may benefit from having a fitness trainer observe and correct their form.

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Increase Exercise Intensity Gradually

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Individuals should increase their exercise intensity gradually. If individuals are just starting to exercise after a long period of inactivity, their knees aren't used to repetitive strain. Individuals might cause knee pain if they overuse their muscles without gradually developing them. In the same manner, athletes with patellofemoral pain syndrome should reduce their exercises and build them up gradually when their symptoms subside. Continuing to engage in high activity and high-impact exercises will just make symptoms worse. If the muscles in the quadriceps have a strength imbalance, they may cause an alteration in an individual's patella tracking. Tight tendons and muscles can also have an effect on patellar tracking. If one group of muscles is tighter than the rest of the muscles, this might lead to instability.

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Wear Proper Footwear

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It's important to wear proper footwear when engaging in any type of heavy exercise. Proper footwear helps protect the feet and cushion the knees against high impacts. Repetitive impacts can lead to a wearing-away of cartilage around the knee, so impact cushioning should be a high priority. In addition, individuals should be aware of whether they overpronate, as this can lead to patellofemoral pain syndrome. If the foot rolls too far inward with each stride, the tibia then compensates by rotating, which causes the joint to move in an imbalanced way. There are many types of footwear designed specifically to help correct overpronation. Overpronators should look into these shoes to reduce stress on their knees.

Katherine MacAulay