Knee Pain Vancouver

What is PFPS – Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

By Brooke MacGillivery, Physiotherapist

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, commonly referred to as PFPS, is a syndrome characterized by diffuse pain/discomfort surrounding the knee cap. The pain can vary in intensity, location, and duration, and will commonly present after repetitive activities such as running, squatting, or cycling.

Why does PFPS occur?

In order for the lower extremity to function optimally, the ankle,

knee and hip joints must have functional ranges of motion. The muscles surrounding each joint must be strong and balanced as well. Due to the nature of most jobs, the majority of us sit for a better portion of the day. Sitting for prolonged periods can inhibit the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, calves), which can lead to weakened muscles. Anytime a muscle group is weakened, the body develops compensatory patterns to achieve a given movement pattern. If the glute muscles are inhibited while climbing stairs, the body will recruit surrounding muscles to get the job done (cue tight hip flexors and quads). The body can tolerate repetitive movements, but only when all the muscles involved are doing their fair share. Tight quads and hip flexors can pull on the knee cap, forcing it to track improperly which can contribute to PFPS and other conditions such as IT Band Syndrome.

There are a number of different factors that can contribute to PFPS, not just the mechanisms listed above. The good news is that by determining any muscular imbalance or mechanical impairments, a treatment plan can be devised to correct imbalances and decrease the stress on your knees.

If you find you have diffuse knee pain that affects your daily activities, seek out a physiotherapist to assess your mechanics. Simple things like foam-rolling your quads, and doing glute-activation exercises prior to a run can decrease the stress on your knees.