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If you have pain and/or grinding sounds in the front of your knee when walking down hills, squatting or going down steps you may have patellofemoral pain. Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) involves pain in and around the kneecap or patella.

PFPS often occurs in people who are physically active or who have suddenly increased their level of activity, especially when that activity involves repeated knee motion, running, stair climbing, squatting, or repeated carrying of heavy loads. As we age, age-related changes can cause the cartilage on the under-surface of the patella to wear out and further contribute to pain.

Our patella withstands huge compressive forces when going down stairs – 3.5x our body weight (normal walking only puts a force of 0.5x body weight). That means for a person weighing 120lbs, when they come down stairs, a force of 420lbs goes through the kneecap.  Different contributing factors can interfere with the ability of the patella to glide smoothly on the femur (the bone that connects the knee to the thigh) during movement. The friction between the under-surface of the patella and the femur causes the pain and irritation commonly seen in PFPS.

Some examples of contributing factors include:

  • A lack of mobility at the ankle/foot or hip
  • A lack of strength and stability of the hip and pelvic girdle
  • A lack of flexibility in thigh , hip, and calf muscles
  • Weakness of hip, thigh , calf muscles

Watch yourself going down stairs or squatting – this is what a knee looks like when not in good alignment due to these contributing factors and increased stress is placed on the knee.

knee movement

There are some things you can do to prevent and manage PFPS:

  • Manage excessive pronation of the foot – good shoes, orthotics if needed
  • Maintain good mobility of the ankle
  • Stretch calf’s, thighs, hamstrings, hips
  • Strengthen gluteals
  • Maintain a strong core
  • Strengthen quads, hamstrings, calf muscles.
  • Be aware of and fix the alignment of your knee when going up or down steps or hills, squatting, or rising from sitting to standing.

PFPS is very treatable, so don’t let it stop you from enjoying the activities you love.

For more information or to receive help with your knee pain, contact Mountain Physical Therapy – 254-3525