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Patellofemoral syndrome is a condition that causes pain around and behind the knee cap. It is often called ‘runners’ knee’ as it is usually caused by activity. Although common in runners, it can also be caused by walking up steep hills and stairs regularly. Many people also experience an increase in pain when sitting for long periods or squatting down. 

There are a number of issues that factor into Patellofemoral syndrome and although the symptoms can be eased with the use of ice and rest, more severe cases may require physical therapy and custom orthotics to correct the problem. 

What Causes Patellofemoral Syndrome?

Patellofemoral syndrome can be caused by running and other high-impact activities because overuse puts a lot of stress on the joints and causes pain. However, other factors increase the risk of developing this problem.

People with overpronation or flat feet are more likely to experience pain around the knee cap. When walking or running, the foot rolls inward and the arch flattens out. This puts extra pressure on the ankle, heels, arches and knee, often leading to patellofemoral syndrome. Similarly, supination, when the foot rolls outward due to high arches, can cause the same problem. 

If you have an issue with overpronation or supination, you are more likely to develop patellofemoral syndrome when running or walking up steep hills and stairs. 

In some cases, people also experience pain due to muscular issues because their muscles are not providing enough support and the impact is absorbed by the knee. 

How To Prevent Patellofemoral Syndrome

There are a few simple ways to prevent patellofemoral syndrome due to overuse. Stretching and warming up gradually before the high-impact activity is important. You should also increase the intensity gradually as fast changes in speed and impact can cause extra stress on the knee joint. 

Improving strength in the hip abductors and quadriceps can also provide more support and take pressure off the knee joint. However, if the problem is caused by alignment issues in the feet, specific treatments are required. 

How Can Patellofemoral Syndrome Be Treated?

If you experience knee pain due to overuse, rest and ice are often enough to reduce the inflammation and deal with the pain. However, if the problem is due to overpronation or supination, the pain will be consistent and it will get worse whenever you run or walk. Physical therapy and exercises to improve form can help to correct the issue in some cases, but custom orthotics are often more effective if the problem is stemming from the mechanics or alignment of your feet and lower limb. 

Shoe inserts can help with flat feet or high arches, but it is important that they are specifically designed for your feet or they will not be as effective. 3D scanning technology or skillful casting can be used to create an accurate picture/model of your foot. Custom orthotics can then be designed based on this cast. Using these custom orthotics will correct the overpronation or supination problem and help prevent patellofemoral syndrome. Compression knee sleeves/braces or straps can also help relieve the issues and help increase mobility.

If you are concerned about the patellofemoral syndrome, get in touch with Healthy Steps and we can develop a treatment plan that may include custom orthotics.