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Health Information For Parents
Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFP syndrome) is pain in and around the kneecap (patella). PFP syndrome is also called “runner’s knee.”
Rest and exercises that stretch and strengthen the hips and legs can help PFP syndrome get better.
Patellofemoral (peh-tel-oh-FEM-er-ul) pain syndrome is an overuse disorder. These happen when someone does the same movements that stress the knee over and over again.
In PFP syndrome, repeated bending and straightening the knee stresses the kneecap. It’s most common in athletes.
Some people with PFP syndrome have a kneecap that is out of line with the thighbone (femur). The kneecap can get out of line, or wiggle as it moves along the thighbone, because of muscle weakness, trauma, or other problem. If this happens, the kneecap doesn’t glide smoothly over the thighbone when the knee bends and straightens. The kneecap gets injured and this causes the pain of PFP syndrome.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome usually happens in people who play sports that involve a lot of knee bending and straightening, such as running, biking, and skiing. It can also happen to people, particularly young women, who do not do a lot of sports.
PFP syndrome is more common in women and happens most often to teens and young adults.
Tight or weak leg muscles or flat feet can make someone more likely to get PFP syndrome.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome causes pain under and around the knee. The pain often gets worse with walking, kneeling, squatting, going up or down stairs, or running. It may also hurt after sitting with a bent knee for a long time, such as in a long car ride or in a movie theater.
Some people with PFP syndrome feel a “popping” or creaking after getting up from sitting or when going up or down stairs.
To diagnose patellofemoral pain syndrome, health care providers:
Usually no testing is needed. Sometimes the health care provider orders an X-ray or other imaging study to check for other knee problems.
A child or teen with patellofemoral pain syndrome needs to limit or completely avoid activities that cause pain. Sometimes a change in training is all that’s needed. For example, someone who usually runs hills to train can try running on a flat, soft surface instead.
Someone who has severe pain or pain that interferes with activity (for example, if it causes a limp) needs to rest the knee until the pain is better.
An important part of the treatment for PFP syndrome is improving the strength and flexibility of the legs, hips, and core muscles. Health care providers usually recommend going to a physical therapist to make an exercise plan that will help. The plan may include stretching, squats, planks, lunges, and other exercises that improve strength and flexibility of the legs and hips.
The health care provider might also recommend:
It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes surgery is needed for PFP syndrome.
Most people with PFP syndrome need to cut back or stop sports for some time. Follow the health care provider’s instructions on when it is safe for your child to go back to sports. This usually is when:
It can take months to years for the symptoms from PFP syndrome to get better. Following an exercise plan given by the health care provider or physical therapist can help the knee heal.
To lower the stress on their knees after healing, young athletes should:
Knee injuries are common among young athletes. Learn about causes, treatments, and prevention.
Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) happen when movements are repeated over and over, damaging a bone, tendon, or joint.
Jumper’s knee is an overuse injury that happens when frequent jumping, running, and changing direction damages the patellar tendon.
Healthy knees are needed for many activities and sports and getting hurt can mean some time sitting on the sidelines.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome (or runner’s knee) is the most common overuse injury among runners, but it can also happen to other athletes who do activities that require a lot of knee bending.
A knee X-ray can help find the causes of pain, tenderness, swelling, or deformity of the knee, and detect broken bones or a dislocated joint.
Our bones, muscles, and joints form our musculoskeletal system and enable us to do everyday physical activities.
Without bones, muscles, and joints, we couldn’t stand, walk, run, or even sit. The musculoskeletal system supports our bodies, protects our organs from injury, and enables movement.
The key to healing meniscus tears is not to get back into play too quickly. Find out what meniscus tears are and how to treat them.
MCL injuries can happen in active and athletic kids, when excessive pressure is put on the knee joint, resulting in a torn ligament.
MCL injuries happen when excessive pressure is put on the knee joint, causing a torn ligament.
Osgood-Schlatter disease (OSD) is one of the most common causes of knee pain in adolescents. It’s really not a disease, but an overuse injury.
Osgood-Schlatter disease (OSD) is an overuse injury that can cause knee pain in teens, especially during growth spurts. Learn more.
Physical therapy helps people get back to full strength and movement – and manage pain – in key parts of the body after an illness or injury.
Injuries can be common, and runners should always be aware of their surroundings. To keep things safe while running, follow these tips.
Playing hard doesn’t have to mean getting hurt. The best way to ensure a long and injury-free athletic career is to play it safe from the start. Find out how.
ACL injuries can happen in active and athletic kids when excessive pressure is put on the knee joint, resulting in a torn ligament.
Physical therapy uses exercises and other special treatments to help people move their bodies. Find out more in this article for kids.
Doctors often recommend physical therapy for kids who have been injured or have movement problems from an illness, disease, or disability. Learn more about PT.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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