Do you experience pain under or around your kneecap? Is it painful for you to keep your knee bent for too long or when you exercise? These are common symptoms of patellofemoral pain syndrome. Patellofemoral pain syndrome affects around 1 in every four people, usually those who are more athletic. It is also more common in women, as well as people under the age of 50. Patellofemoral pain syndrome occurs when the kneecap, also known as the patella, is unable to correctly track on the bottom end of the thigh bone or femur. When you bend and straighten your knee, the kneecap should move up and down within the groove along a straight line. When the kneecap no longer follows this line and tracks further outside the femur, you will experience pain. Causes of the patellofemoral syndrome include overuse or increased physical use of your knee. In women, the syndrome occurs as a result of their wider hips. If the position of the patella on the femur is slightly higher than normal, the pain will occur. Additionally, the presence of flat feet or excessive foot pronation can also lead to the pain associated with the patellofemoral syndrome.
Isometrics for Quadricep Strengthening
This exercise helps to isolate the vastus medialis muscle in the thigh. It is important to be able to feel this muscle contracting to strengthen it, reducing pain. Sit on the floor and place a rolled-up towel or foam roller underneath your knee, bending it slightly. Put your hand on the vastus medialis muscle to feel it contract. This is located just above the kneecap and slightly to the inside of the knee. Contract the muscle and hold for 3-5 seconds before relaxing. Your foot should lift off the floor slightly when you straighten your knee. Repeat 10 times per session and perform the exercise 3-5 sessions per day, if the pain allows.
Straight Leg Lift for Quadricep Strengthening
Strengthening your quadriceps will support your patella, helping it to move correctly when bending and straightening your knees. To perform the straight leg lift, lie flat on the ground, where you feel comfortable and firmly supported. Bend one leg up to a 90-degree angle, placing your foot flat on the floor. Raise your other leg a few inches off the ground and hold it there for 5-10 seconds. Slowly lower your leg to the floor, taking a few seconds before you come to rest. Complete this exercise around 5-10 times before switching legs and following the same steps.
Stretching for the Quadriceps
Besides strengthening the muscles in the leg, stretching them is also highly beneficial for alleviating the pain. It is important to note that you should not feel any pain while stretching. Stop stretching if you feel pain. While standing, pull your leg up behind you so that your foot moves towards your buttocks. Try to keep your knees together as much as possible and keep your leg straight, trying not to twist it as you move. The stretch should be felt in the front of the leg, and should not result in any pain. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat it around 3 to 5 times.
Stretching the Iliotibial Band
Place one leg behind the other and shift your weight to the back leg. If necessary, hold onto something to keep your balance. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat the stretch 5 to 6 times. If the pain allows, perform this exercise at least three times a day. It may seem like a lot of stretching to complete in one day, but it will be well worth it to reduce the pain caused by the patellofemoral pain syndrome. Avoid bouncing while stretching. Relax and ease into the stretch slowly and gently. If you feel any pain while stretching, you might not be doing it correctly.
Stretching the Iliotibial Band and Buttocks
This double stretch will help your flexibility in two separate areas, namely the iliotibial band and the buttocks. To perform this stretch start by sitting on the floor and cross one foot over the opposite knee, for example, the right foot over the left knee. Twist your upper body to the right, using your left arm to push against your right knee. You will feel the stretch in the outer part of your right thigh as well as the right buttock. Hold this stretch for 10-20 seconds, and repeat it 5-10 times before switching legs.
The Calf Stretch
Stretching your calves can also assist in alleviating pain caused by patellofemoral syndrome. Begin by facing a wall and place both hands on the wall. Move your left foot backward until you begin to feel the stretch in our calf muscle. Keep your left heel on the ground during the stretch. Your right knee should be bent with your knee lining up directly over your toes. Hold this position for 10-20 seconds and complete the exercise 6-10 times before you switch legs and stretch the other side. Remember to stop stretching if you feel any pain.
Stretching your Hamstrings
Properly stretching your hamstring muscles can also help to reduce the pain felt from the patellofemoral syndrome. To perform this stretch, start by lying flat on the floor, your legs out straight. Bend one knee and bring it towards your chest, gripping your thigh with both hands to keep it steady throughout the stretch. Straighten your bent leg out into the air until you feel the stretch in your leg. Make sure that the stretch lasts for 5-10 seconds, then relax. Complete the stretch 5-10 times before switching legs to stretch the other side.
Strengthening Hip Muscles
Believe it or not, but strengthening your hip muscles can have a very positive effect on your knees and can help to alleviate pain. The hip adductor muscles are found in the thigh and aid the movement of bringing the thighs together. To begin this exercise, sit down and place a rubber ball between your knees and squeeze it. If you do not have a ball available for this exercise, you can use your hands, making them into fists and place them between your knees and squeeze. Hold this squeeze for 5-10 seconds, then relax. Repeat this 5-10 times to complete the exercise.
Strengthening Hip Abductor Muscles
Hip abductor muscles in the buttocks and the lateral sides of each hip. With the adductor muscles, these also affect the movement of the knee, and strengthening these can help to reduce pain in the knee. To perform this exercise, you will need a sturdy chair or wall to keep your balance. Start by standing on your right foot with your knee slightly bent, holding onto the wall for support. Slowly raise your left foot to about 30 degrees and hold for 2 seconds, then slowly lower your foot back to the ground, straightening out both legs. Be careful not to let your knees turn inwards or let your pelvic tilt crookedly when bending your knees. Repeat this exercise 10 times before switching legs.
Exercises to Avoid!
When suffering from the patellofemoral syndrome, be careful not to do any exercises that may make the pain worse. These exercises include deep squats, using a leg extension machine or lunges. It is important at this point to protect your knees from further damage. The right exercise can lead to rehabilitation, while the wrong exercise can result in life-long problems.