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.