Pain in and around the patella (or knee cap) can affect anybody despite age or fitness level.
Knee pain can be caused by various reasons and can be complex to diagnose.
In some cases, a thorough physical examination may be required along with imaging scans to determine the cause of pain.
Patella pain is commonly seen in athletes and fitness enthusiasts who put their knees under high levels of stress.
This can include activities such as running, jumping, or weightlifting. Injuries to the patella or surrounding structures such as ligaments and tendons.
Why is the patella important?
The patella is a special bone of the knee that serves various functions to allow smooth and correct movement of the knee.
The knee cap sits at the front of the knee. It works to bend and straighten our knee when doing normal day to day activities.
The position of the patella helps in the efficient transfer of forces to generate power when using the quadriceps. This is the large muscle at the front of our thigh.
The patella should glide smoothly when moving at the front of the knee.
The patella is also important in protecting the front of our knee.
Symptoms of patella pain?
Patella pain is pain that is located anywhere around or under the patella. It is often a dull ache, that starts off to be fairly minor before progressing to be more constant.
Patella pain can increase in movements that increase the bend of our knee such as deep squats, stairs or running.
Depending on the injury, there may be localised swelling around the patella.
Creaking sensations in the knee cap can also occur in certain activities.
Risk factors for patella pain
Women are more likely than men to experience knee pain
Those who play sports that are particularly physical for the knees. These include basketball, netball, soccer and certain lower limb weightlifting movements.
Those who work in jobs that demand repetitive bending, standing or kneeling
What causes patella pain?
Anytime we use our knee repeatedly over time or have an abnormal change in activities, an overuse injury can develop. Pain in the patella is a common symptom of overuse.
Any changes to normal physical activity routines such as increased frequency or intensity of walking, squatting, training or running can bring about patella pain.
Similarly, a change in work demands that require us to increase our time spent squatting or bending can trigger patella pain.
A common diagnosis from repeated stress to the knee is patella tendonitis. This is acute inflammation at the front of the knee, often seen in those who are very active.
Because the knee works closely with other joints in the leg such as the hip and ankle, any changes in one will affect the other.
Often it is tightness or weakness somewhere in the leg that can change the mechanics of how the knees work which can increase the risk of patella pain.
With incorrect form or mechanics in the knee, there can be unnecessary stress placed on the patella.
Sometimes it is simply a case of an accident or fall which involves the knee that can lead to patella pain.
In these cases, getting treatment quickly will help to alleviate the symptoms in a timely fashion and get you back to feeling good again.
Managing Patella Pain
Managing patella pain involves a combination of rest, targeted exercises, pain management strategies, and sometimes simple treatments or medical intervention.
Rest and Recovery
If you’re experiencing patella pain, the first step is often to rest your knee and avoid activities that exacerbate the pain. Listen to your body and take the necessary breaks.
Exercise and Physical Therapy
Strengthening exercises targeting the quadriceps and other muscles of the leg can help support the knee and reduce patella pain. Physical therapists can guide you in performing these exercises correctly and safely.
Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medication can help in managing the pain. Using a cold pack on the affected area for 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times a day, can also help reduce inflammation and pain.
If the pain persists despite these strategies, it may be necessary to consult with a medical professional. They could recommend a range of options, from simple treatments, injections, or even surgery, depending on the severity and cause of the pain.
Remember, managing patella pain is a process and can take time. Patience and consistency in following your treatment plan are key to a successful recovery.
How can physiotherapy assist with knee pain?
Physiotherapy is a great way to help resolve patella pain.
Whether it has been a long-standing injury or something that has only recently come up, physiotherapy treatment is helpful in the diagnosis and treatment of knee pain.
Assessment and diagnosis
When it comes to determining the root cause of patella pain, it is not as simple as other joints within the body.
With physiotherapy, a thorough assessment can be conducted to analyse and break down the mechanics of knee movements. This will determine any imbalances or misalignments which might contribute towards pain. After diagnosis, the Physiotherapist can decide if a conservative treatment is all that is required, or if a more comprehensive approach is required.
To assist in your return to pain-free activities or sports, physiotherapy can help determine appropriate stretches and exercises tp make a treatment plan with specific exercises to help promote correct mechanics within the knee.
Physiotherapy exercises will also be tailored to the individual to help achieve their goals to return to specific activities or sports.
Taping of the knee cap is also a great treatment your physiotherapist may use to help correct patella positioning to alleviate pain
Recommend good equipment
Often with knee pain, your physiotherapist may be able to recommend certain types of footwear or supportive equipment to assist in minimising the amount of stress on the knee.
If you are experiencing any problems with patella or other knee pain, call us on 0298753760, or book an appointment on our website.