Pain in the front of the knee, around the kneecap, is a frequent complaint among individuals. Although most commonly seen in the female athletic population, patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is a condition that can affect both sexes regardless of their activity level. Because of its prevalence, PFPS has been widely studied with varying results; however, most will agree, the pain is a result of muscle dysfunction. Historically, impairments in the quadriceps (the muscle on the front of the thigh) has been linked to this condition. While this theory is likely still valid, it may not tell the whole story. New research has started to shed light on hip muscular imbalances as a contributor as well.
In an article in the August edition of the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, lead author Kimberly Dolak, MS, ATC, compared hip versus quadriceps strengthening for early rehabilitation of women with PFPS and its effect on pain and function. In the study, both the hip and quadriceps strengthening groups performed exercises three days per week using exercises which isolated either the hip or quadriceps muscles. After four weeks, the exercises were adjusted to include more functional, weight bearing and balance-related movements and were continued for another four weeks. After eight weeks, the two groups were compared.
The results demonstrated that both the hip and quadriceps groups reported a decrease in pain by the end of the study. However, the hip group reported a greater pain reduction earlier (after 4 weeks) when compared to the quadriceps group. This suggests strengthening the hips early in the rehabilitation of individuals with PFPS may lead to less pain and better functioning. For more information contact us today!