A recently published literature review and meta-analysis has determined that there may be a link between patellofemoral pain (PFP) and quadriceps atrophy, and authors believe the findings "support the rationale for use of quadriceps strengthening as part of a rehabilitation program for PFP."
The analysis, published in the November 2013 issue of the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, reviewed 10 studies that focused on patients with PFP and no coexisting pathology. Measurement of quadriceps size was obtained with a tape measure, through ultrasound, or by way of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and all studies included baseline data.
The study's authors found that the presence of atrophy was more reliably detected through imaging techniques than with girth measurements but that the atrophy did exist to such an extent that quadriceps-strengthening exercises could be "an important consideration" in rehabilitation. Authors acknowledge that this suggestion differs from research that "has led many clinicians to shift their focus toward more proximal factors in PFP rehabilitation."
PFP is common, particularly among young athletes, and accounts for as much as 25% of all reported knee pain. APTA's guide to PFP recognizes the role that quadriceps-strengthening may play in rehabilitation and provides information on PFP that PTs can share with patients. More broadly focused information on knee pain is also available at the PT's guide to knee pain webpage.
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