Patellofemoral pain syndrome. What does this diagnosis mean? It sounds like a very vague diagnosis at best and some type of psychosomatic condition at worst. The truth is it is a very real condition with a variety of causes. I should know, as it bothered me off and on during much of my late teens and into my twenties.
Upon completion of my senior year of high school, I began experiencing pain in my anterior knees on both sides. The pain was intermittent at first. It would bother me for a few weeks and then go away for months or more at a time. Like many of you out there, I thought, “Oh well the pain is gone so I don’t have to worry about it.” This pattern went on for a number of years.
In high school I was quite active in many sports including volleyball and basketball. Once I had begun University, I wasn’t as active in as many sports, but rahter doing a lot of studying/sitting. I began to notice that the pain in my knees actually coincided with this reduction in physical activity.
About the time I started my Master in Physiotherapy, the intermittent pain cycle seemed to be happening more frequently and lingering. It was occuring in both knees and would often be so sore that if I was to crouch down, I would have to use my arms to help pull myself back up into a standing position.
While undergoing my physiotherapy training, I began learning about all the possible “culprits” that were likely at the root of my problem. Some general factors that can lead to this problem are:
- Increased internal rotation of the femur
- Increased pronation
- Decreased ankle joint motion
- Poor flexibility
- Decreased strength in the quadriceps muslce, hamstrings, or hip abductors and external rotators
As I went through the checklist, I found that what appeared to be causing my particular problem was decreased quadriceps strength and decreased hamstring flexibility.
So what to do about it? Get on an exercise program and be consistent! Stick to it! I started with some different exercises designed to increase my leg strength and noticed some improvement. However, I think the turning point for me was when I started learning a new sport – rowing! As rowing is all about generating power through your legs, these heavy consistent leg workouts really helped to strengthen my legs and banish the pain that I have been having for so long.
Know that if you are having knee pain you do not have to live with it. Often the longer you go without addressing it, the longer it takes to resolve and allow you to return to the things you love to do. Who wants to be in pain any longer than you absolutely have to? I learned my lesson!
Aislin Beaulieu MPT, CAFCI