7 Things to STOP Doing if You Have Patellofemoral Stress Syndrome

Picture of a man holding injured knee.
What should you stop doing if you have knee pain from patallofemoral stress syndrome?. PhotoAlto/Sandro DiCarlo Darsa/Getty Images

Knee pain from patellofemoral stress syndrome (PFSS) can make normal, everyday tasks difficult. Your physical therapist can help treat PFSS, and he or she can tell you what to STOP doing to treat your condition.

If you have knee pain due to patellofemoral stress syndrome, then you understand how the pain can limit your ability to perform normal activities like running and stair climbing. You may benefit from physical therapy for PFSS to help you decrease your pain and improve your strength and mobility so you can get back to the things you want to do.

Goals of physical therapy for PFSS may include:

Your physical therapist can teach you things to do to start treating your PFSS. A home exercise program may be prescribed with specific stretches and strengthening exercises to help improve the way your knee joint functions.

But what should you avoid if you have PFSS? What things should you stop doing to start treating your PFSS and to get back to normal activity?

Here is a list of 7 things you should stop doing if you have PFSS. Remember, if you have or suspect you have PFSS, visit your doctor right away to confirm your diagnosis and start the right treatment right away.

  1. Stop waiting for the pain to go away. So often, people with pain simply expect to wait for the symptoms to subside. But the pain from PFSS may be caused by muscle tightness or weakness, and simply waiting won't do anything to treat the cause of your problem. Stop waiting, see your PT, and start treating your condition.
  1. Stop treating only the inflammation. Many people feel knee pain and immediately assume that the tissues around the kneecap are inflammed. Therefore, they only treat the inflammation with anti-inflammatory medication and the R.I.C.E. method. But properly treating PFSS requires that you determine the biomechanics of your condition and work to make positive changes in your problem areas. Working to improve strength, flexibility, and balance is essential to knocking out PFSS.
  1. Stop focusing only on your kneecap and knee joint. Historically, physical therapy for PFSS focused on strengthening the quadriceps and vastus medialis obliquus (VMO) muscle of your thigh. While this still holds true, recent research has shown that hip weakness may contribute to PFSS and knee pain. Strengthening your hip muscles, like the gluteus medius muscle, can play a significant role in managing PFSS. Have your PT check your hip strength, and get working on your glutes to rehab your PFSS right.
  2. Stop the aggravating activity. Most people with PFSS note a few activities that exacerbate symptoms. Typically walking up or down stairs and running are triggers for knee pain from PFSS. To properly treat PFSS, find out what is making your symptoms worse, and temporarily avoid those activities. Your PT can help you determine when it is time to start these activities again.
  3. Stop relying on a knee brace. The use of knee bracing for PFSS is controversial. Many experts believe that a knee brace simply does not provide enough force to maintain your kneecap in an optimum position. A knee brace should not be a substitute for an active exercise program that focuses on improving flexibility, strength, and balance.
  1. Stop ignoring your feet. Some, but not all, patients with PFSS have a problem with the arches of their feet. If your arch is flattened, this could lead to foot pronation. Foot pronation due to fallen arches can cause your leg to rotate inwards, leaving your kneecap in a vulnerable position and causing pain in your knee. Have your physical therapist check your arch position, and place arch supports in your shoes to keep your feet--and knees--in the optimal position.
  2. Stop skipping your stretching exercises. Some cases of PFSS may be caused by tight  muscles. Tightness in your  calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, and iliotibial band may all place abnormal force through your kneecap. Have your PT check your flexibility, and learn some stretches, like the sidelying Iliotibial band stretch, to improve the flexibility of the muscles around your kneecap.

Patellofemoral stress syndrome can be a difficult condition to manage. But with a careful physical therapy assessment, and by avoiding certain specific activities, you can be sure to quickly and safely be on the road to recovery for your PFSS.

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