Why does my knee cap ache?
June is here and school is out, let the summer fun begin! This time of year, I usually dial up my activity level because my kids are out of school. That means more time in the pool, running around the yard, and I know I have a little something planned for myself as well: picking back up with my daily runs around Lady Bird Lake!
You’re probably doing the same thing, getting more active as the temperatures climb. Maybe you like to run or walk or play sand volleyball or ride your bike or *insert your favorite activity here*…but something is slowing you down.
At first, things were great! You were running like never before… walking further… you were just so happy and energetic!
But now, you find yourself turning down your friends and family. You don’t want to join them because your knee is killing you! Out of nowhere, your knee seems to have decided it wants to go back to winter time where you snuggled on your couch, avoiding the cold, instead of being outside and active in the great outdoors.
The problem is that you really don’t want to spend this summer on the couch. You want to go to the lake with friends. You want to chase your kids around the yard. You want to go on summer evening strolls with your significant other. You want to play a round of golf with your colleagues.
What you really need now is a way to get rid of your knee pain, but what exactly is behind your knee pain?
Your knee pain might be from Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFP)
Unfortunately, our bodies don’t always agree with our fitness endeavors, and activities such as too much walking or running can cause your knee pain to flare up — especially if you haven’t been keeping those exercises as part of your daily routine in a consistent manner. One common injury associated with hiking or running is patellofemoral pain syndrome, or PFP for short.
PFP is defined as knee pain in the front of your knee due to a kneecap tracking problem that causes dysfunctional contact between your kneecap and the underlying bone; basically, your kneecap is rubbing on your leg bone! The pain is usually located in the front part of the knee, but may be on the inside or outside of the kneecap, or vaguely located in that area of your leg.
Normally, as the knee bends, the kneecap slides smoothly along a groove in the thigh bone. However, under certain conditions your knee may experience forces which compress it against the sides of the groove, causing pain.
PFP syndrome is one the most common injuries we see and treat with active individuals, and it affects females more often than males. The possibility of experiencing PFP increases as individuals age, commonly affecting folks in their fifties.
What causes patellofemoral pain syndrome?
There are several factors that include:
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle tightness
- Weak lower abdominal muscles
- Runners who increase mileage too quickly or excessive running on uneven surfaces
- Abnormalities such as being “flat footed”
Weakness in your low back, hip, ankle, and knee can affect the amount of stress put on your kneecap during functional activities, like stair climbing, squatting, and running.
How do you treat knee pain caused by PFP?
Historically, treatment of PFP consisted of quadriceps strengthening, taping of the knee cap, knee braces, and foot orthotics. Current research on the treatment of PFP suggests focusing on strengthening of hip muscles, in particular the gluteus maximus and medius. Both are important stabilizers of the knee which help promote optimal movement of the knee.
Optimal knee movement => less stress on knee tissues => decreased pain!
Here are two simple exercises you can do at home to help build muscles to alleviate that knee pain.
#1 Single Leg Bridge:
Lie on your back and raise the opposite leg you want to train off the ground. While keeping this leg elevated, slowly press and lift your hips up, maintaining a level pelvis. Hold this position for 5 seconds and then lower yourself down. Repeat ten times, in 1-2 sets daily.
(image source: https://fitstop24.com/exercise/bent-single-leg-glute-bridge/)
#2 Wall sit
Place your both feet about 2 feet out from the wall. Next, put your back against the wall so that your shoulder blades and buttocks are both against the wall. While keeping your shoulders buttocks in contact with the wall, slowly slide down until you reach about an 80-90 degree bend in your knees. If you experience knee cap pain, adjust your feet so that your toes are pointing outward about twenty degrees more. Hold this for 20-30 sec and then slide back up the wall and rest 30 secs. Repeat this 5-10x daily.
(Image Source: https://www.verywellfit.com/the-wall-sit-quad-exercise-3120741)
This is great, but is all frontal knee pain due to PPF?
No, it is not! There are many different structures that can become aggravated and cause knee pain. A physical therapist can determine if your knee pain complaints are truly patellofemoral in nature or related to something else. This is very important because treatment strategies will differ depending on the tissues involved.
At Move Empower Physical Therapy, our therapists’ specialized training allows for a detailed examination to identify the root cause of your knee pain. Failure to treat the underlying cause of your pain will make long-term symptom relief less likely.
If you are currently dealing with knee pain and stiffness that is limiting you from your daily activities and are interested in finding out if physical therapy treatment can help, simply give us a ring!
Call us at (512) 659-5615 or FILL OUT THIS FORM for a FREE 20 min consultation designed to determine the root cause of your pain or injury, a treatment plan to fix it, and whether or not physical therapy is ideal for you. We will get you back to all your favorite activities this summer so you can enjoy the great outdoors with friends and family! And maybe I will see you on my morning job around Lady Bird Lake this season!