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The patella, or kneecap, can be a source of knee pain when it fails to function properly. Alignment or overuse problems of the patella can lead to wear and tear of the cartilage behind the patella. This produces pain, weakness and swelling of the knee joint. Several different problems can affect the patella and the groove it slides through in the knee joint. These problems can affect people of all ages.

The patella is wrapped inside a tendon that connects the large muscles on the front of the thigh, the quadriceps muscles, to the lower leg bone. There are two tendons, one on top of the patella and one underneath. Inflammation of either of these tendons (tendonitis) is a common overuse injury with runners and soccer players.

Muscle imbalances involving the thigh and hip muscles can cause the patella to be pulled off its special track or groove leading to further wear and tear of the cartilage. This joint is usually affected as part of osteoarthritis of the knee.

Treatment of patella-femoral pain begins with a thorough assessment to determine the cause. Physiotherapy to reduce pain and inflammation, correct muscle imbalances through focused stretching and strengthening exercises as well as manual therapy techniques can help restore proper function to this important joint. Bracing, taping and/or orthotics may also be recommended.

For more information, and to view a 3D video of the knee joint anatomy, visit our website: www.waterdownphysiotherapy.com