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At Slocum Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, several of our orthopedic surgeons specialize in patellofemoral pain. The Slocum Center has been providing care for knee conditions for more than four decades. In fact, our knee specialists have helped hundreds of Eugene-area patients each year regain strength, flexibility, and function. 

Various athletes, such as runners, jumpers, cyclists and soccer players, put heavy stress on their knees on a repetitive basis. So-called "runner's knee" refers to various conditions that cause pain around the front of the knee (patellofemoral pain). These conditions include patellar tendinosis, Osgood-Schlatters Disease (apophysits or inflammation near the patellar tendon attachment on the tibia), chondromalacia patella (cartilage damage to the undersurface of the kneecap), plica syndrome (inflamed bands of synovial tissue) and other conditions. Pain is worsened by excessive activity and sometimes by prolonged sitting.

Cause

Large forces are generated across the patellofemoral joint due to a combination of quadriceps muscle action. These forces are often several times greater than the person's body weight. The patellofemoral joint is therefore very sensitive to the additional stress caused by obesity. In addition, other factors such as excessive training or overuse, inappropriate shoe gear or misalignment of the feet, ankles and knees are underlying factors. Many of these factors can be determined by clinical exam and X-rays.

Prevention

To avoid patellofemoral pain:

  • If overweight, lose weight to reduce stress on knees.
  • Do a 5-minute warm-up followed by stretching before exercise. Also stretch after exercise.
  • Increase training gradually. Avoid sudden changes in the intensity of exercise.
  • Use proper running gear. Choose shoes with good cushion and arch support.
  • Runners should obtain new shoes at regular intervals.
  • Use proper running form. Avoid steep downhill running.

Treatment

Treatment is generally nonsurgical. Rest the knee until pain and swelling subside. Perform regular stretching exercises of the calf, quadriceps, hamstrings and hip musculature. Gradually strengthen the musculature of the knee, hip and core. Orthotics, taping,and patellofemoral bracing may help alleviate symptoms.

Surgical treatment is rarely necessary and may include:

  • Arthroscopy to treat damaged patellar cartilage or remove inflamed tissue (such as a plica).
  • Patellar realignment surgery if this is a primary underlying cause of pain.

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