The knee joint is made up of 3 main bones – the femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone), and patella (kneecap). When the knee is straight the femur and tibia are stacked over one another, and as the knee bends the femur and tibia hinge open. The kneecap is smooth on the top and underneath shaped in a gentle triangle – like the “V” bottom of a shallow boat. This slides along a matching groove in the femur as the knee bends and straightens. The kneecap is attached to the thigh muscles (quadriceps) above, and the tibia below. The patella acts as a pulley when the muscles straighten or bend the knee. The way the kneecap slides is influenced by the strength of the quadriceps, and also by the way the foot and ankle change the angle of the tibia below it, and the strength of the hip muscles and how these influence the angle of the femur above it.
Knee pain is common with running, jumping, squatting, climbing stairs, and sitting for a long time. Sometimes the cause of this pain is the way the kneecap is tracking or gliding as the knee bends and straightens. This is known as Patellofemoral Pain (PFP) and research shows that the best way to treat this includes quadriceps strengthening, hip muscle strengthening, foot arch support, and specific training for the type of exercise you are trying to do.
If you are feeling limited by knee pain and need some help to get back to doing the activities you enjoy, we are here to help! Physical Therapists are trained to look at how you move, the strength and flexibility of your leg muscles, and the angle of your kneecap tracking to match your treatment specifically to your body. Don’t let knee pain hold you back this fall or Winter!