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knee pain

By Kate Zanoni, LPTA

If you’ve experienced pain behind your kneecap or in the front of your knee, you may be suffering from patellofemoral pain syndrome or ‘Runner’s Knee.’ Runner’s knee is often characterized by pain behind the knee (retropatellar pain), pain around the kneecap (peripatellar pain) or pain in the front of the knee (anterior knee pain). It is associated with activities that put stress on the knee joint, such as running, sports and recreational activities.

What’s in a Name?

Chair warriors and couch potatoes beware! You’re not immune to developing this condition. Runner’s knee is also known as ‘office worker’s knee’ or ‘moviegoer’s knee’ due to a prolonged seated position with the knees bent. This adds stress to your knee joint and increases knee pain.

The pain associated with runner’s knee is caused by pressure between the patella (kneecap) and femur (thigh bone) as the knee bends, so those who are sedentary for more than 3 hours per day are at an increased risk of developing runner’s knee.

What Causes Runner’s Knee?     

Runner’s knee is due to the improper alignment of the patella (kneecap). As the kneecap glides over the femur during the bending of the knee, improper alignment of the patella causes stress and grinding at the joint. Over time, this can wear down joint cartilage, which is connective tissue that helps cushion your joints. Altered alignment of the patella is often due to tight connective tissue on the outside of the knee, pulling the kneecap toward the outside of the knee joint. Misalignment of the patella is also caused by muscle imbalances at the hip as well as the knee. When there is hip muscle imbalance, the long bone in the thigh will rotate inward, contributing to a lateral shift of the kneecap during weight-bearing activities. This will cause the kneecap to track toward the outer knee instead of staying central, putting more pressure on the knee joint and increasing knee pain over time. Weak hip abductors and hip external rotators lead to impaired muscular control at the hip, which can alter the knee joint’s normal mechanics, especially during stair climbing, landing from a jump and running.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

If you are experiencing knee pain, avoid deep squatting, prolonged kneeling, repetitive jumping, excessive stair climbing and other activities that increase stress on the knee joint. Reduce the frequency, intensity and duration of any activity that worsens your knee pain until you see a physical therapist to address your pain and muscle imbalances. At Loudoun Sports Therapy Center, our physical therapists and physical therapist assistants will provide you with a comprehensive strength and range of motion program to improve your muscle imbalances, reeducate your muscles to ensure proper tracking of your kneecap and gradually build up your activity level so you can return to your previous activities while maintaining a pain-free lifestyle.   

If you are experiencing knee pain of any type, call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center today at 703-450-4300 to speak with one of our therapists and schedule an evaluation to begin addressing your pain as soon as possible.

CLICK HERE for more information on how physical therapy can address your knee pain. 

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