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The patellofemoral joint is made of the patella (e.g., kneecap) and femur (e.g., thighbone). The kneecap glides up and down along a groove in the front of the thighbone, helping the quadriceps muscles to bend and straighten the leg. Patellofemoral pain—sometimes referred to as “Runner’s Knee”—occurs with overuse or heavy stress to the knee joint. Injury is especially likely during sports, but may also occur after years of wear-and-tear. This chronic wear-and-tear can eventually cause the cartilage to soften and break down, a condition identified as chondromalacia.
You may experience dull, aching pain around the front of the kneecap, where it connects to the lower end of the thighbone (e.g., the femur). The pain may worsen when going up or down stairs, squatting or kneeling.
Treatment of patellofemoral pain depends on the underlying cause. The most important way to improve your condition is rest, rehabilitation or knee bracing. It is important to modify activity. Keeping the knee as straight as possible can help relieve underlying irritation. Physical therapy can help to strengthen the quadriceps muscle and allow your kneecap to track properly. In some cases, surgery can correct the underlying condition and improve support to the knee. Arthroscopy, which involves the use of a small, pencil-sized camera, can be used to smooth fragments of kneecap cartilage. Realigning the kneecap is also an alternative, and this is done by opening the knee and reducing the abnormal pressures on the cartilage.