How can I prevent getting knee pain?
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) is one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions in patients younger than 50 with complaints of knee pain. PFPS describes anterior knee pain, or pain at the front of your knee or under your kneecap. The pain may be a nagging ache or an occasional sharp pain that may cause you to limp or limit your functional daily activities. The pain often occurs with prolonged sitting, squatting, kneeling, running and stair navigating. The cause of this pain may be multifactorial. Risk factors include structural abnormalities at the hip, knee or foot, weakness in hip/knee muscles, tightness in hip/knee muscles and overuse of muscles at the knee joint. Research shows that weakness in quadriceps (front of the thigh) and buttock muscles is significantly associated with a higher risk of PFPS in the future, and females may also be at a higher risk of developing PFPS.
PFPS can be managed with anti-inflammatory medication, exercise/physical therapy and rest from painful activity. Prevention programs that focus on strengthening exercises can lead to the reduction of PFPS in high risk populations. Common exercises that are used to strengthen the quadriceps and buttock muscles include: multi directional lunges, squats, single limb balance exercises, sidestepping and forward/lateral step ups. As previously stated, research suggests that having weak quadriceps muscles is a risk factor for developing PFPS, and it also states that if you are a woman, you are more likely to have this type of pain. Therefore, especially for women, a regular exercise program consisting of core hip and knee strengthening as well as stretching as needed may be effective in keeping your knees pain free.
If you are experiencing knee pain, it is recommended that you follow up with your physician for a complete examination. Your physician will be able to rule out other potential diagnoses and guide you along the appropriate treatment path.
The author of this article is Julia Wipf, PT, DPT, from Athletico – Oak Park.