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Spotlight on: Non-specific knee pain

Published: 01 March 2016 - Injury Treatment and Prevention, Physio Tips

Image of a woman clutching her knee

Patellofemoral pain is responsible for one of the most common causes of knee pain amongst netball and basketball players and is characterised by non-specific knee pain which may seem to originate around the under surface of the kneecap. 

What causes patellofemoral pain syndrome?

Patellofemoral pain is generally insidious in onset however it may also present secondary to a previous ligament or meniscus injury which has resulted in muscle weakness or muscle imbalance around the knee. This puts the entire lower limb at a mechanical disadvantage and increases the risk of patellofemoral pain.

Other activities which aggravate patellofemoral pain include running (particularly downhill running), cycling, climbing or descending stairs and prolonged sitting. It is also caused by performing lower limb exercises such as squats and lunges with poor technique. Patellofemoral pain is more common in females and in younger athletes.

How is this knee pain treated?

Depending on the severity of their symptoms, many athletes will continue with their chosen sport while suffering from patellofemoral pain. This is why it is important to visit your treating physiotherapist to establish an accurate diagnosis early as these conditions can in fact worsen without appropriate management.

Generally, initial management includes rest to de-load the patellofemoral joint and allow for healing to occur. A supervised hip and knee strengthening program should be commenced early to allow for adequate support around the knee when returning to sport. This should be progressed to eventually include high level functional and sport specific exercises.

When can I return to sport?

Your physio will discuss a gradual return to sport but this can range from weeks to months depending on the severity of your condition. When returning to sport, patella taping and foot orthotics may be considered to correct any biomechanical abnormalities in the lower limb. This is important as there is a high risk of relapse with these conditions if causative biomechanical factors are not considered.

If you think you are suffering from a condition like patellofemoral pain, book a FREE initial assessment with one of our physiotherapists at your local Back In Motion physiotherapy practice.


Con Boulionis, Physiotherapist at Back In Motion Sydenham

Con has worked at Back In Motion Sydenham since 2011 treating a wide variety of musculoskeletal conditions. Con enjoys the challenges of treating all sporting injuries, in particular those involving the shoulder and the hip. He has undertaken a number of additional professional development courses to further his knowledge and skills with the shoulder, hip, groin, muscle injury management as well as completing Clinical Exercise training to enhance his ability to provide exercise rehabilitation.

Con is the current Head Physiotherapist for the Victoria Under-15 Hockey Team and travelled with them to Hobart for the 2015 National Championships.