Patellofemoral pain syndrome is not dangerous or fatal, but it can still effectively sideline you from physical activity and drastically diminish the quality of your life. The good news is that patellofemoral pain is also a good candidate for manual self-help techniques like trigger-point therapy. Also, manual self-help techniques are relatively easy to learn and affordable to use.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS; also called runner's knee) is a condition that causes pain in front of or around knee cap. As 1 out of 4 people is likely to suffer from PFPS at some point of their lives, it's also one of the most common sources of knee pain.
The Mystery of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
Because there is no consensus on what causes PFPS nor is there a single best treatment, PFPS is often deemed mysterious and hard to treat. Rather than mysterious, PFPS is best described as multifactorial, which means that multiple causes contribute to it.
For example, according to Dr. Pribut, structural issues like wide Q-angle and high patella, overtraining, and various muscular imbalances can play a role in the development of the syndrome. Dr. Pribut lists weakness in the vastus medialis muscle, overpronation, weak core and weak muscles of gluteus medius, plus tight calf and hamstring muscles as factors that promote patellar pain.
Because runner's knee can be caused by many factors, finding a cure can sometimes be a hit and miss process.
Self-Help Options for Patellofemoral Pain
1 First Aid
The first line of treatment for PFPS is (relative) rest. If your knee is swollen, you can apply a commercial cold wrap and wear a knee sleeve when you train. You should also check your feet for overpronation and consider getting footwear that corrects it.
2 Manual Self-Help Techniques
In addition to rehabilitation program designed by a physical therapist or an athletic trainer, there are several manual self-help techniques that can be used to relieve patellofemoral pain. As mentioned before, muscular imbalances often contribute to a runner's knee and they can be easily addressed by learning manual techniques like trigger-point therapy or acupressure.
Trigger points are localized areas of hyperirritability (“muscle knots”) within a muscle that can weaken the muscle and radiate pain to distant body parts. According to Clair Davies, author of the Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, trigger points may occasionally be the sole cause of patellofemoral pain.
Overworking the muscles of the thighs while running, climbing, squatting, jumping and wearing high heels can cause trigger points in thigh muscles. Prolonged sitting can also lead to problems.
In patellofemoral pain, trigger points that refer pain to the patella and areas around it can be found in the following thigh muscles
- rectus femoris,
- vastus medialis,
- vastus intermedius,
- vastus lateralis,
- adductor longus and brevis.
Switching off the trigger points in these muscles reduces pain and improves the alignment of the leg.