One common running/walking injury is Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), which is more commonly known as “Runners Knee.” It typically presents as pain beneath and around the kneecap, which can range from a mild nuisance to a debilitating pain. Armed with a little information, you can help to make the Summer and Fall running seasons painless and fully enjoyable.
Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome has been reported to occur in up to 2.5 million runners per year. One of the major problems associated with PFPS is the fact that 70-90% of individuals with this condition have chronic or recurrent symptoms. Current theories for the development of PFPS include weakness in hip and thigh musculature, poor foot and ankle flexibility, poor training habits, and footwear selection. The most current research for the treatment of this condition is directed towards improving lower extremity strength and flexibility in the hips and thighs.
A good starting point in preventing the development of runners knee is to adopt a strengthening program geared towards balancing the muscles around your hips and thighs. In addition to strengthening, stretching is also very beneficial as foot/ankle and hip range of motion restrictions correlate with impaired efficiency and lower extremity mechanics. Footwear selection is also of major concern. Sneakers tend to lose their shock absorbing capabilities as they age, whether used or not, which can impact force attenuation and ultimately increases stress on joints during running/walking.
Some basic categories of strengthening exercises to look into include hip abductor, hip external rotator, and hip extension. It is also important to stretch your hip flexors, gluteals, hamstrings and calves. For more specific information regarding exercise prescription or footwear selection it is always wise to contact your physical therapist and/or running store experts.
Tom Hendrickson, PT, DPT, OCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
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2Stathopulu E, Baildam E. Anterior knee pain: a long-term follow-up. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2003;42:380-382.