The causes of patellofemoral joint pain are fairly straightforward and are also more common than most people may realize.
Of all the various types of joint pain one can suffer from, patellofemoral joint pain is one of the most frustrating. This isn’t because it’s the most painful, and the severity of the pain you experience from it will vary greatly depending on your specific situation. Instead, it’s something that is frustrating because it can make everything from walking the dog to sitting down for a movie turn into a test of stamina and endurance. Understanding more about what causes this type of pain will help you understand more about your problem and how to manage it.
There are two main causes for patellofemoral joint pain. The first is sudden trauma or injury brought on by increased force. Something like a fall or a dislocation is a good example of this issue. In other cases, and much more common, the pain will be the result of a prolonged problem, namely repetitive compression within the PF joint.
The PF joint is made up of the femur and the kneecap, also called the patella. In healthy knees the kneecap slides up and down on the femur as you straighten or bend your leg, following a groove in the back of the kneecap. This groove is smooth and is lined in cartilage. But as you go through life, that cartilage can often weaken and wear down. A number of reasons exist for this wearing down of the cartilage including mal tracking, where the knee doesn’t follow the groove properly and causes undue pressure to be pushed against the cartilage. Other issues include weakened muscles else where in the lower body, overuse due to sports, and improper technique when doing things like running or jogging.
As the cartilage wears down, the bones may grind against one another and the tendons within the knee may also become roughened. This can trigger pain, inflammation within the knee, and more. This pain is made worse with activity or with prolonged periods of sitting due to the unique pull they put on the kneecap.
Treatment options largely depend on the cause of the pain and on the situation. Serious cases may require lifestyle changes, and switching from high impact activities like running to lower impact ones such as swimming may be needed to avoid further development and progression of the problem. It is very rare that surgery is needed for this condition.
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