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Pain Under the Knee Cap



pain under the knee cap
pain under the knee cap


Do you feel pain under or around your knee cap, especially when you climb stairs, squat, or sit for a long time? If so, you might have a condition called patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), also known as runner's knee. PFPS is one of the most common causes of chronic knee pain, affecting people of all ages and activity levels. In this blog post, we will explain what PFPS is, what causes it, and how you can treat it.


## What is patellofemoral pain syndrome?


PFPS is a condition that affects the patellofemoral joint, which is where the patella (knee cap) and the femur (thigh bone) meet. The patella is a small bone that slides up and down a groove in the femur as you bend and straighten your knee. This movement helps to distribute the force of your body weight across the knee joint and protect the cartilage underneath.


However, sometimes the patella does not move smoothly in the groove, and instead rubs against the femur. This can cause inflammation, irritation, and damage to the tissues around the patella, resulting in pain and stiffness in the knee. This is what happens in PFPS.


## What causes patellofemoral pain syndrome?


There is no single cause of PFPS, but rather a combination of factors that can affect the alignment and function of the patellofemoral joint. Some of these factors are:


- Weakness in the muscles of the buttocks and thighs, which help to stabilize the knee and control the movement of the patella.

- Tightness in the muscles of the hamstrings and calves, which can pull the patella out of alignment and increase the pressure on the joint.

- Sudden changes in the intensity, frequency, or duration of physical activities, such as running, jumping, or cycling, which can overload the patellofemoral joint and cause inflammation.

- Repeated stress on the knee from activities that involve a lot of kneeling, bending, or squatting, which can wear down the cartilage and cause pain.

- Injury to the knee, such as a dislocation, fracture, or ligament tear, which can damage the patellofemoral joint and affect its function.

- Other factors, such as being overweight, having flat feet, or having a structural defect in the knee, which can alter the biomechanics of the knee and increase the risk of PFPS.


## How can you treat patellofemoral pain syndrome?


The good news is that PFPS can often be treated with simple and effective measures that you can do at home or with the help of a physiotherapist. The main goals of treatment are to reduce the pain and inflammation, improve the strength and flexibility of the muscles around the knee, and correct any underlying factors that may contribute to PFPS. Some of the treatment options are:


- Rest your knee from activities that cause or worsen the pain, such as running, jumping, or squatting. However, do not stop moving your knee completely, as this can lead to stiffness and weakness. Instead, switch to low-impact activities that do not put too much stress on the knee, such as swimming, cycling, or walking.

- Ice your knee for 15 to 20 minutes every few hours to reduce the swelling and inflammation. Wrap the ice pack or bag of frozen peas in a towel and place it on the painful area of your knee. Do not apply ice directly to your skin, as this can cause frostbite.

- Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can help to relieve the pain and inflammation. However, do not take them for more than a few days without consulting your doctor, as they can have side effects and interact with other medications. Also, do not rely on painkillers to mask the pain and continue with activities that may aggravate your condition.

- Physiotherapy can help to improve the function and alignment of your patellofemoral joint by providing exercises, stretches, massage, and other techniques. A physiotherapist can assess your knee and design a personalized program that suits your needs and goals. They can also advise you on how to modify your activities, footwear, and posture to prevent further injury and pain.

- Surgery is rarely needed for PFPS, and only considered as a last resort when other treatments have failed. Surgery may involve removing or smoothing the damaged cartilage, realigning the patella, or releasing the tight tissues around the knee. However, surgery has its own risks and complications, and does not guarantee a complete recovery. Therefore, it is important to discuss the pros and cons of surgery with your doctor before making a decision.


## How can you prevent patellofemoral pain syndrome?


The best way to prevent PFPS is to keep your knees healthy and strong by following these tips:


- Warm up before and cool down after any physical activity, especially if it involves a lot of knee bending or impact. This can help to prepare your muscles and joints for the exercise and prevent injury.

- Gradually increase the intensity, frequency, or duration of your physical activity, and avoid sudden changes that may overload your knee. Listen to your body and do not push yourself beyond your limits. If you feel any pain or discomfort, stop and rest.

- Strengthen the muscles of your buttocks and thighs, which help to support and stabilize your knee. You can do exercises such as squats, lunges, bridges, and leg presses, using your own body weight or resistance bands. However, make sure you do them correctly and do not overdo them, as this can cause more harm than good.

- Stretch the muscles of your hamstrings and calves, which can help to improve the flexibility and range of motion of your knee. You can do stretches such as standing hamstring stretch, seated hamstring stretch, standing calf stretch, and seated calf stretch. Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 3 times on each side. Do not bounce or force the stretch, as this can cause injury.

- Maintain a healthy weight, as excess weight can put more pressure and stress on your knee and increase the risk of PFPS. If you are overweight, try to lose some weight by following a balanced diet and a regular exercise routine. However, do not go on extreme diets or exercise programs, as these can be harmful to your health and your knee.

- Wear appropriate footwear, as this can affect the alignment and function of your knee. Choose shoes that fit well, provide good support and cushioning, and suit your activity and foot type. Avoid wearing shoes that are worn out, too tight, or too loose. You may also benefit from wearing orthotics or insoles that correct any foot problems, such as flat feet or high arches, that may contribute to PFPS.

- Avoid activities that cause or worsen your knee pain, such as running, jumping, or squatting. If you have to do these activities, try to reduce the frequency, intensity, or duration, and use proper techniques and equipment. For example, if you run, choose a soft and even surface, wear good running shoes, and vary your route and speed. If you squat, keep your knees aligned with your toes, do not go too low, and use a chair or a wall for support.


We hope this blog post has helped you to understand more about PFPS and how you can treat and prevent it. Remember, if you have any questions or concerns about your knee pain, or if it does not improve or gets worse, you should consult your doctor or physiotherapist for further advice and treatment. Do not ignore your knee pain, as it may indicate a more serious problem that needs medical attention. Take care of your knees, and they will take care of you!

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