Patellofemoral pain syndrome treatment with 5 physical exercises

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is a common knee problem, especially among women. The pain can last for an extended period when not treated correctly.

But with the right treatment, the patellofemoral pain syndrome recovery time can be as short as six weeks.

In this article, I’ll show you what the right treatment looks like. I’ll explain in full detail what is most likely to cause patellofemoral pain syndrome, what the symptoms are, and how you can treat it yourself with 5 physical exercises. These physical exercises include both stretching and strengthening exercises for your knee and hip. They also help to improve knee tracking.

knee brace

In short, this is what the treatment looks like:

    • Wear a knee brace to reduce the pressure on your knee cap
    • Train your hip and leg muscles
    • Train the stability of your knee
    • Improve the mobility of your knee cap for better knee tracking

Below, I explain everything in full detail:

    1. Patellofemoral pain causes
    2. Patellofemoral pain symptoms
    3. Patellofemoral pain treatment with 5 physical exercises

Patellofemoral pain causes

A dysfunction of patellar tracking of your knee is the main cause of patellofemoral pain syndrome. There are several reasons as to why the patellar tracking doesn’t work as well as it should.

Your patella or knee cap lays inside your knee capsule. When you bend your knee, your knee cap glides over your thigh bone and shin bone through a groove. A layer of cartilage lines the underside of the kneecap to smoothen the gliding of the knee cap. The tendons of your thigh muscles, especially your quadriceps, run along and over your knee cap. They attach to your shinbone.

patellofemoral pain syndrome

When you bend your knee, your knee cap shifts down your knee and a little bit to the outer or lateral side of your knee. When you extend your knee, your knee cap shifts up and a little to the inside or medial side of your knee. This is called normal patellar tracking. Your patella glides smoothly through the groove.

Several factors influence patellar tracking when you move your knee.

 

Osteoarthritis

The amount of cartilage under your knee cap is one of these factors. As you get older, the cartilage might ware out slowly, which increases friction and negatively affects patellar tracking.

 

Alignment

The position of your knee also influences patellar tracking. When your knee is aligned straight with your ankle and your hip, patellar tracking is optimal. But when your knee shifts more to the inside or outside, the tracking of your patella also changes. Knee shifting is often a result of weak hip muscle function.

 

Overuse

Overuse is another common cause of patellofemoral pain syndrome. Overuse irritates the joint capsule of your knee. Irritation leads to tightening and, thus a reduction in the mobility of your knee cap. It leads to more friction and results in pain.

 

Hypermobility

Also, hypermobility of the knee can cause patellofemoral pain syndrome. Hypermobility can affect the alignment of your knee as well. It makes it easier to hyperextend or cause kneeing in. Both situations change patellar tracking.

 

Muscle Weakness

The last common cause is tight or weak thigh muscles. Because the muscles cover your knee cap, tightness presses your knee cap on your thigh bone. The increased pressure affects the patellar tracking due to the increase in friction.

Patellofemoral pain symptoms

The main characteristic of patellofemoral pain syndrome is a pain in different parts of the knee. Usually, you feel pain at the lateral side or around your kneecap. Sometimes there may also be pain present under your knee cap.
Pain often occurs during:

  • Sitting for a long period with your knees flexed.
  • During squatting
  • When you kneel down

Problems with patellar tracking cause these symptoms. It causes stress on the surrounding tissue, especially during the activities mentioned above.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome is a gradually developing knee pain without a sudden occurrence.

Patellofemoral pain treatment with 5 physical exercises

To treat your patellofemoral pain syndrome successfully, we’ll have to address all its possible causes.

The first thing you have to do is reduce the pressure on your kneecap. The best way to do this is by wearing a knee brace. It supports your kneecap when it glides up and down your knee during bending and absorbs the forces that work on your knee.

Together with reducing the load on your knee, you’ll also have to improve the strength of your leg muscles, the stability of your knee, and the mobility of your kneecap.

To do this, there are five physical exercises available that you can do at home without any equipment: 2 stretching exercises, two strengthening exercises, and one stability exercise.

I’ll explain every exercise in detail, including its functionality.

knee brace

Patellofemoral pain syndrome physical exercise 1: Improve knee tracking

The first physical exercise you should do helps to improve knee tracking. The exercise helps to restore the mobility of your kneecap by stretching the joint capsule that holds it in place.

When the mobility of your kneecap improves, friction reduces, which results in less pain. The exercise also reduces the irritation of your joint capsule.

Perform the exercise like this:

    • Sit down with your knee extended
    • place your thumb against the inside of your kneecap
    • Push your knee cap towards the outer side
    • Hold the pressure for 20 seconds
    • Repeat this three times

You can also see how to perform the exercise in the video below:

Repeat the exercise several times a day. When you compare your painful knee with your other knee, you’ll notice that your kneecap moves easier on your healthy knee than your painful knee. Mobility has to be equal if you want to overcome this problem.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome physical exercise 2: Stretch your quadriceps muscles

The second physical exercise is a stretching exercise to reduce the tension in your thigh muscles.

Tense thigh muscles cause more pressure on your kneecap and therefore reduce patellar tracking.

By stretching your quadriceps muscles, you’ll improve knee tracking and reduce knee pain.

Perform the exercise like this:

    • Grab the ankle of your painful leg
    • Bring your ankle towards your but
    • Hold this for 20 seconds
    • Repeat this 3 times

You can see how to perform the exercise in the video below:

When you do the exercise, you should feel a stretch in your thigh muscles. It might even be difficult to bend your knee completely. It will become easier over time.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome physical exercise 3: Train your quadriceps muscles

The third exercise improves the strength of your quadriceps muscles. Strong quadriceps muscles support your knee, improve alignment, and also knee tracking.

The best way to train your quadriceps without overloading your knee is by doing the active straight leg raise.

Perform the exercise like this:

    • Lay down with your knee extended and your toes pointing towards you
    • Raise your leg while keeping it extended
    • Bring it down again without touching the ground
    • Repeat this ten times
    • Do this 3 times

You can see how to perform the exercise in the video below.

As the exercise becomes easier over time, you can increase the number of repetitions to 15-20. When the pain in your knee reduces, you can also start with squats or lunges to improve your strength even more.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome physical exercise 4: Train your hip muscles

The fourth physical exercise against patellofemoral pain syndrome focusses on improving hip strength. Proper hip strength is essential for proper knee alignment and knee tracking.

When your hip muscles are too weak, your hip drops when you walk. The hip drop causes kneeing in and reduced knee tracking.

Perform the exercise like this:

    • Lay down on your healthy side
    • Extend your leg and pull your toes towards you
    • Raise your leg sideways
    • Repeat this ten times
    • Do this 3 times

You can see how to perform the exercise in the video below:

When the exercise becomes easier, you can try to increase the number of repetitions to 15 or even 20.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome physical exercise 5: Improve the stability of your knee

The final physical exercise to improve knee tracking focusses on improving the stability of your knee. Proper knee stability improves the alignment of your knee and, therefore, the tracking of your knee cap. That’s because your leg muscles coordinate better.

You can perform the exercise like this:

    • Stand on one leg (the painful one)
    • Hold this for 30 seconds
    • Repeat this 3 times

You can see how to perform the exercise in the video below:

You can do the exercise as often as you want during the day. You can improve the difficulty of the exercise by closing your eyes or use a balance cushion.

Conclusion

These five exercises will help you treat your patellofemoral pain syndrome fast and effectively. If you have any questions left, feel free to send me an e-mail.

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