Monday, October 19, 2015

Patellar Femoral Syndrome Part 2

          My last post discussed the chronic condition known as patellar femoral syndrome, the related symptoms, and possible treatments.  Since it is always better to bypass injuries than figure out how to recover from them, this post will address some causes of this condition and how to avoid them.

      This condition occurs when the patella, or knee cap, is misaligned. When it is misaligned, it cannot slide along the groove in the femur when it moves. The patella can move out of this position as a result of an acute injury from a fall or a sudden movement, but one of the main causes is a misalignment that develops over a period of time.  This misalignment occurs when the muscles that are meant to stabilize this joint and hold the knee cap in position begin pulling on the knee joint unevenly.  

          Muscle groups work in pairs. The pairs work opposite each other - one group extending while the other flexes, or bends the joint. In order to create stability, both groups need to pull on the joint evenly, creating equal tension in all directions. When one muscle group is tighter than its partner group, the tension is unequal and the patella is pulled out of position.   

        This condition can be the result of tight quadriceps, which are the four muscles along the front of the thigh, or tight hamstrings, which are the muscles that run along the back of the thigh. These muscular imbalances can be avoided by making sure that all of the muscles are worked and stretched evenly. 
        Dancers tend to use certain muscle groups more than others and need to be aware of what muscles may not be worked as often. Cross training in other activities like yoga, Pilates, biking, swimming or walking can help ensure that all muscles are worked evenly.  Dancers also need to be aware of the iliotibial band, also called the IT band for short - this tendon connects the gluteus maximus muscle and the tensor fascial lata muscle to the skeleton.  Dancers use the gluteus maximus a lot since it is responsible for returning the leg to its original position after it has been lifted to the front, lifting the leg in arabesque, and is one of the main muscles involved in turning the leg out.  

            The tensor fascia lata is constantly relied upon by dancers as it is responsible for lifting the leg to the front and the side and rotating it inward. 

        The constant use of these two muscles causes the IT band to grow tight. Dancers need to stretch out the IT band often so it does not pull the knee joint out of position.

        By simply being aware of which muscles might need some extra work and being sure to stretch every muscle equally, most chronic conditions relating to poor skeletal alignment can be avoided.  It is extremely important for dancers to learn about muscular imbalances, to know their own bodies and to cross train to be healthy, strong dancers.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Patellar Femoral Syndrome - Part I

“When there is alignment and understanding, it is much easier to navigate forward together, ” - Karen Kimsey-House

          The knee is one of the most relied upon joints of the human body and is subjected to a great deal of force every day. During a simple activity like walking, the amount of force placed upon this joint is equal to anywhere from one-third to one-half an individual's body weight. When a person is climbing stairs the force placed upon the joint is equivalent to 3 times the individual's body weight, and when squatting, the knee must manage a force equal to 7 times the individual's body weight. When considering these facts, it is easy to understand that there must be a great amount of stress placed upon the knee in all kinds of dance. When the knee joint is functioning correctly, it is usually able to cope with this stress, however, when something is misaligned, and the knee joint is not functioning efficiently, the stress can be detrimental.

        Patellar femoral syndrome is a chronic condition in which the patella, or knee cap, is not correctly aligned. The patella is a triangular shaped bone that lies on top of the femur, or thigh bone. There is a groove in the femur which allows the patella to slide back and forth as the knee bends and extends. When the patella is not in alignment, it does not fit well into this groove, and the friction of the patella against the femur begins to wear away the cartilage found in the joint.

          When the knee joint is at rest, the patella is held in place by the capsule surrounding the joint, the ligaments on either side of the patella (the retinaculum), and the patellofemoral ligament, which connects the femur to the patella.

When the knee is actively bending or extending, the joint's stability is provided by the quadriceps (the four muscles located on the front of the thigh), the vastus medialis (which is a muscle that is found on the inner side of the thigh), the vastus lateralis (which is a muscle that runs along the outside of the thigh), and the iliotibial band, which runs from the gluteal muscle of the buttocks down the outside of the thigh.

          Dancers with patellar femoral syndrome will experience pain behind and around the kneecap during activities that require the knee to bend like squatting, jumping or climbing stairs. Occasionally, the dancer will also experience the knee buckling, or "giving way" when walking and may also complain of stiffness in the knee after sitting for a while.

          Any dancer experiencing these symptoms should rest the joint and use ice and anti-inflammatories to control the discomfort. The dancer should also contact a sports or dance medicine doctor to get a complete diagnosis. In most cases, once the cause is determined, physical therapy can help alleviate the symptoms and help realign the kneecap.

          Since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, my next post will focus upon the causes of patellar femoral syndrome and how to prevent this condition from occurring.