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Patellofemoral syndrome (also called patellofemoral pain syndrome) affects the knee, causing knee pain that can range from mild to severe. In this condition, a kneecap that’s not quite in alignment causes the pain.

If you’ve been diagnosed with this knee problem, you may be wondering what the next steps are. Here’s what you need to know about what to expect after your doctor has diagnosed you with patellofemoral syndrome.

You May Start With Non-Invasive Treatment

Although some patellofemoral syndrome cases require surgery, your doctor may recommend a less invasive treatment first. This could include physical therapy, which is considered an effective way to help strengthen your legs and balance out the muscles in your leg that could be pulling your kneecap out of line.

Your physical therapist may design a program of therapy for you that includes exercises aimed at your hamstrings, core, hip muscles, quadriceps, and other related muscle groups.

Your Doctor Will Only Perform Surgery if Needed

If less invasive treatments don’t work after a reasonable amount of time, you’ll need to let your doctor know. This could be a sign that your case will require surgical treatment. Every case is different, but one type of surgery commonly used for patellofemoral syndrome is arthroscopic surgery.

Arthroscopic surgery involves inserting a tiny camera to check if any internal components of the knee are damaged in a way that could be repaired surgically. If your surgeon finds a problem area that they can physically adjust to help keep the patella on track, they can then perform further surgery to complete that treatment.

Your Doctor May Recommend Home Treatments for Pain

Although physical therapy may help, it’s unlikely that your knee problem will vanish overnight, so you may still have to deal with some pain as you wait for treatment to work. Talk to your doctor about which medications you should use — these may include over-the-counter medications.

Your doctor may also recommend that you use ice rather than heat for pain management, especially if your knee is swollen at all. Although heat can sometimes sooth joint pain, ice is more likely to help with patellofemoral syndrome. That’s because unlike therapeutic heat, ice can cut down on swelling significantly.

Remember to use ice safely; be sure not to place ice directly on the knee, and don’t use it for more than 20 minutes at a time or fall asleep while using ice or heat.

You May Need to Change Knee Use Habits

In some cases, your doctor may recommend changing your habits in the short term to reduce strain on the knee as it starts to heal. However, if your doctor suspects that your knee problem was caused by a specific long-term habit, you may need to change your habits on an ongoing basis as well.

Your doctor could tell you to put your knees on light duty for a while, monitor your knee condition whenever you perform physical activities, or even make long-term changes such as wearing better shoes to reduce strain to your joints. Talk to your doctor about which habits you’ll need to alter and for how long to avoid a relapse.

This information can help you plan ahead for what you may need to discuss with your doctor or physical therapist at your next visit. For example, think of anything you might have done recently, such as sitting on one knee for hours or performing deep lunges during your workout, that you think might have placed strain on your knee, and ask your doctor about it.

However, always discuss your symptoms, treatment, and any questions you may have with your medical professional. If you’d like to make an appointment at Omaha Orthopedic Clinic and Sports Medicine to discuss knee pain, give us a call today.