(43) The PFP Syndrome — Every Runner’s Nightmare

Photo on Unsplash by Scott Webb

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is a term often used to describe a pain that arises from the patellofemoral joint itself, or its neighbouring tissues. It is mainly reported as pain in the anterior part of the knee but doesn’t go unnoticed in other areas.

Pain is felt with activities such as squats, climbing stairs, or changing positions between sitting and standing.

Let’s get an insight into this condition and hope that it can be of help to even some of you runners out there.


10 tips about knee pain by Dr Christian Barton

The following tips are directed to professionals and clients but apply fairly similar to anyone experiencing PFPS.

1. Load management

Be careful how much load you put on your knee, too much load, at a sudden can be the most common reason of pain.

This resonates in two ways; as a professional know your terms and prescriptions and you as the patient — know your limits, listen to your body.

2. Exercise prescription

As an exercise specialist/physiologist/physiotherapist (these professionals are the main caretakers of this industry, hence my constant referral to them) it is mandatory to know what you are prescribing to your clients/patients; this will feature if you’re addressing mobility, neuromotor control or strength.

3. Educate

Nobody is willing to partake something they aren’t able to understand, hence as an exercise specialist/physiologist/physiotherapist, it lies in your duty to inform your patients/clients as to what the exercise is trying to achieve and why.

Similarly, if you are consulting someone as a patient ask questions, know what you’re getting into and how is it beneficial for you.

4. Exercise progression

This has to be done carefully and progressively, exercise prescription provided by allied professionals doesn’t solely involve sets and reps. There is careful consideration of load progressions catering for time, frequency and of course individual adherence.

Again, as the person receiving the exercise prescription, you need to know your limits — I really can’t emphasise enough on how important this is for you and the condition.

5. Adaptability

If a certain form of exercise has worked for one individual it is not necessary, that it will do the same for another group of individuals. Change and adapt to every patient’s needs differently.

6. Monitor irritability

Dr Barton mentions the need to constantly observe the pain symptoms. Irritation can be triggered with exercise and therefore it is recommended that you commence exercise training above and below the knee to start with.

7. Patience

Exercises and its effects take time to reap its benefits, it is a slow and progressive process. This is the core reason one needs to be patient with this kind of investment — both in terms of time and effort.

8. Function

The pain that is felt during PFPS is greatly felt during activities as mentioned above, such as climbing stairs, running or even changing position from sit to stand. As a result, the end motive is to gain full functionality of these activities, consider it a measurement tool to declare the severity of the pain on the knees.

9. The part where manual therapy comes in

If you are familiar with the work of a physiotherapist/physical therapist then this will be the part where taping, manual therapy and massage kicks in. But one needs to consider carefully that this should not replace exercise therapy but rather be done alongside it.

10. Evidence-based

Anything without the backup of evidence is like a computer without backup — difficult to trust. When carrying out exercise-based treatment options look for options that are evidence-based to gain trust in your clients and of course provide the best treatments for them.

This was an adaptation from a great article that I came across, it is very common for this injury to occur amongst runners. There isn’t a particular way in which this can be avoided completely, however, with the right training the muscles around the knee can be strengthened to delay its onset.

I really hope this helps you all with your running, minus the injury of course.

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