"My knee hurts with stairs, when I keep it bent too long, or with sporting activities."
"My knee locks, cracks, or gives way without warning."
If these complaints sound all too familiar, you may be one of the many people suffering from patellofemoral joint syndrome pain. This condition, characterized by a diffuse ache surrounding the knee cap (patella), affects approximately one of every four persons.
Patellofemoral joint syndrome is the result of the inability of the knee cap to track properly on the end of the thigh bone (femur). Problems which can be corrected through exercise are decreased flexibility or weakness of the muscles surrounding the knee.
Once you have developed patellofemoral joint pain, what can you do to alleviate this pain?
First, attempt to avoid any motions or activities which reproduce the pain. Avoid sitting for prolonged periods with your knee bent, take stairs one at a time, and alter athletic activities to reduce stress on the knee.
Flexibility exercises to stretch the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles (all muscles surrounding the knee) will improve the ability of the patella to move in a straight line on the femur. Note that none of the exercises suggested below should cause you pain. If they do, stop the exercise or decrease the intensity. These exercises are not meant to replace a consult with your physician or physical therapist for severe or intense pain.
The following three stretching exercises are suggested to help alleviate knee pain:
Exercise 1: Standing, place one foot up on a chair or stool. Keep the knee straight. Hold 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times. Do not bounce.
Exercise 2: Standing, bring one foot up towards your buttocks on hold 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times. This may also be done lying on your stomach or side. Do not bounce.
Exercise 3: Standing, step forward with one foot. Keep both feet facing forward and your heels on the ground. Slowly lean forward keeping your back leg straight. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in the back leg. Hold 30 seconds, repeat 3 times. Do not bounce.
Strengthening exercises may also be helpful. These exercises strengthen the quadriceps (thigh) which help the knee cap move normally:
Exercise 4: Sit or lie with your legs straight out. Tighten the muscles in your thigh while pushing your knee down. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 to 20 times.
Exercise 5: Stand on a step. Stand on the leg you are exercising. Slowly bend that knee lowering your other leg towards the floor (but do not touch). Slowly return to a straightened position. Repeat 1 to 2 sets of 10.
Exercise 6: Stand with your back against a wall. Your feet should be about 18 to 24 inches out from the wall. Slowly lower yourself down. Your knees should not go over top of your feet. Lower so your knees are bent 110 to 90 degrees. Hold this position 5 to 10 seconds. Slowly return to the upright position. Repeat this 10 to 20 times.
None of the above noted exercises should cause pain. If they do increase your pain, stop the exercise or decrease the intensity. It may take up to four to six weeks of consistent exercise to reduce knee pain, improve flexibility, and increase strength.
Patellofemoral joint syndrome does not have to impede your activity level. A temporary modification of certain activities as well as consistently performing strengthening and flexibility exercises will get you and your kneecaps headed in the right direction.
Give us a call at (302) 478-5240 or (302) 655-5877 to speak with us about how our physical therapy and fitness and wellness programs can help you reduce your knee pain. We'll be more than happy to answer any questions you may have or schedule an appointment with one of our physical therapists.