Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, also known as anterior knee pain or runner’s knee, is among the most common sports injury conditions, surfacing as a dull aching pain at the front of the knee.
The condition is often caused by overuse in running and jumping sports, particularly among youth, with female athletes more susceptible to the injury. Contributing factors include overuse and problems with joint alignment.
Symptoms include of patellofemoral pain syndrome include:
- Pain behind, under or around the patella, or kneecap
- Stiffness or pain
- Misalignment of the kneecap
- Pain resulting from activities that put stress on the knee joint
A Sports Medicine doctor is often able to diagnose patellofemoral pain syndrome through a first-hand examination, in which the doctor will look at placement and movement with the kneecap, along with the range of motion at the joint.
The injury can often be traced back to a source, either wearing and irritation in the joint, or in fewer cases, as the direct result of a specific acute injury.
At times a doctor may request imaging, such as an X-ray or MRI, but these tend to be special cases in which the doctor is checking for other injuries that may be accompanying or have similar symptoms. In patients over 50, imaging may be used to confirm or rule out arthritis. In younger patients, imaging may be requested to look for signs of osteochondritis dissecans, or OCD, growth plate damage or bone tumors.
Anterior knee pain has also been connected to chondromalacia patella, which is a softening or breakdown of cartilage under the kneecap. There are no nerves in that area, so it does not directly cause joint pain, but the condition can cause inflammation of the synovium, the tissue that lines the joints, which can cause chronic pain.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome in most cases can be treated by a Sports Medicine physician through non-invasive methods, like prescribed rest and icing — but not heat, altered exercise routines and physical therapy.
A doctor may also recommend bracing, taping or shoe inserts to help bring the joint and leg into better alignment during recovery. The underlying issue can often also be resolved by replacing worn out or unevenly worn footwear.