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How I Fixed My Kneecap Pain in Seconds

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knee cap pain treatment

I’m down in Grand Cayman seeing patients at our licensed advanced practice site and injured my right knee yesterday. I was pretty bummed as my family was coming down and I could barely walk. However, I eventually fixed it with a simple therapy that can teach you how the kneecap works. What happened and how did I fix it?

A Bad Workout

Yesterday I went to the gym for a quick 25-minute CrossFit routine. Toward the end of that, I felt a sharp pain in my right knee, under the kneecap. I began to limp, and going down the stairs was miserable. I was really concerned because I had a big day planned for Sunday. I quickly noticed that my muscles and tendons around the knee were part of this problem, which gave me an idea for treatment based on what I know about kneecap pain.

The Quadriceps and the Kneecap

If you have kneecap pain, as I tell my patients, the patella (kneecap) lives at the end of one of the biggest muscles in the body, the quadriceps. The kneecap is one very small part of a huge muscle and its tendon. Hence, what happens to that muscle dictates what happens to the kneecap.

The quadriceps has four parts: the vastus medialis obliquus (VMO), the vastus intermedialis, the rectus femoris, and the vastus lateralis. For me, it’s always my vastus lateralis (VL) that’s the issue. The VL muscle is the outermost of the four that live in your thigh. What makes it special is that this muscle’s outer wall is the iliotibial band.

My VL and My Knee

I’ve blogged extensively on the vastus lateralis muscle and the ITB. Yesterday, while limping around, I took some of my own medicine. I identified trigger points in my VL muscle and spent time performing deep massage on these areas. What happened? My kneecap pain went away. How?

A trigger point is an area of the muscle that’s shut down due to an irritated low back nerve. When that’s there, the muscle doesn’t contract normally. In this case, since it’s connected to my kneecap, this throws the tracking of this bone off. This then causes the cartilage of the kneecap to get extra trauma. Get rid of the trigger points and the muscle works normally and the kneecap tracks correctly. Pretty simple.

How This Works and Why You Need to Understand This Issue

All I did was to feel around in my VL muscle, and I soon found several rope-like bands that were tight. They didn’t hurt (my pain was in my kneecap area). I then applied firm and prolonged pressure on these trigger points for several minutes. I did this several times until my knee began feeling better.

Why is it critical that you understand all of this if you have kneecap pain, also called patellofemoral pain or chondromalacia? Because getting rid of issues with the nerves in your back or the trigger points in your quadriceps can mean the difference between protecting or frying the cartilage under your kneecap. However, often little attention is paid to this problem.

The upshot? I was pretty sure that I was in for a week or two of hobbling around or would have to inject my own knee with platelet-rich plasma. However, a simple deep massage of trigger points had me back to activity in hours. You have to wonder how many people out there never get this type of simple treatment and then end up getting an MRI showing cartilage loss and then surgery.

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Category: Knee

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6 thoughts on “How I Fixed My Kneecap Pain in Seconds

  1. Diane Conkright

    Thank you all at Regenexx….Dr Markle and Dr Pitts both helped me tremendously duiring my trip to the Caymans last August. (Stem cell injections to hips, knees and lower back)

    Your last 2 blogs have really highlighted a new way of thinking about the ITB, quad., and knee pain. Recent rt hip replacement left me with that leg longer than the other and that imbalance has now been affecting the right thigh/knee/ITB. Am getting a lot of relief from massaging the “bands” I’ve located on the outside of that leg. Thank you

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Diane,
      Unfortunately, that’s more common than one may think. Glad to hear you’re doing well, and that the ITB blogs have helped! Don’t ever hesitateto reach out to Dr. Pitts or Dr. Markle.

  2. Matt Ewing

    You might also be surprised to find out how much some supplemental collagen can help out with your tendons, ligaments, and bones, too.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Matt,
      Hydrolyzed collagen might help arthritis pain. Having said that, the body of evidence to this end is dwarfed by more common supplements like Glucosamine or Chondroitin. So if you’re looking for a joint supplement and the more common supplements with better data don’t work or you can’t tolerate them, consider trying an inexpensive form of hydrolyzed collagen (there are more than 20 on Amazon right now)

  3. Donna

    Can you blog a diagram of these trigger point? That would be very helpful.

  4. F. Oh

    Yes, this kind of bodywork is amazing and not limited to the kneecap. I’ve had this done for many issues on myself and worked on others too. Except, of course, the shoulder tears that I just had Regenexx stem cell treatment for, lol.

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