Patello-femoral syndrome

Arguably one of the most common musculoskeletal problems in Australia, patello-femoral syndrome can be resolved quickly and easily with physiotherapy.

Sometimes called ‘movie goers knee’ sufferers are commonly heard to say;

‘My knees hurt when I stand up after watching a movie.’

‘My knees crackle and crunch when I squat down.’

‘I get pain in my knees climbing up and down stairs.’

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, there is a good chance you are suffering from patellofemoral dysfunction.

The most common patellofemoral problem occurs when your kneecap does not track evenly through its groove at the front of the femur.

This produces uneven pressure on this joint and quite often inflammation and pain behind the kneecap results.

The ‘mal-tracking’ may be a result of weak thigh muscles in particular vastus medialis obliquus (VMO), poor foot posture/flat feet, muscle tightness or imbalance around the knee or hip, wear and tear or a combination of any of these factors.

The problem can occur at any age, but is most commonly seen in young women (especially around the age of 14), and post knee surgery or injury.

As girls go through puberty, and also changes in their activity level, it is common to have a muscle imbalance around the knee.

It is also very common after any knee injury or surgery, as the swelling can weaken the key muscle that supports the patella.

Pain that you may have put down to age (or with children, growing pains), can often be improved markedly and even eradicated with careful assessment and treatment by your physiotherapist.

Your physiotherapist is able to assess the kneecap with different movements and various positions of the knee. This, along with assessments of muscle strength, muscle length and foot posture, enables the physiotherapist to determine the most effective form of treatment for you.

Treatment involves; settling the pain, exercises and stretching, and strapping tape to support the patella, while their exercises regain the required strength and co-ordination. Arch supports (orthotics) from your podiatrist are often used to correct the position of the feet.

The entire process is essentially pain free and may not require any time away from your normal sport-exercise program.

This approach has a success rate approaching 90%, but if symptoms persist, surgical assistance may be required.

For more information see your local Lifecare practitioner.
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