FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, or PFPS, is a treatable condition commonly found in young adults, including service members, who participate in sports and physical activity.
The condition describes pain of the front of the knee and around the knee cap and is commonly referred to as runner’s knee.
“PFPS is a common musculoskeletal disorder among military service members that causes knee pain, quadriceps strength loss, and impaired motor performance in otherwise healthy individuals,” said Dr. Lee Webb, a physical therapist at BACH’s LaPointe Soldier Medical Home. Webb explained that it’s important to address knee pain because if left untreated, Soldiers with knee pain may limit physical activity and joint motion. The inactivity may lead to further injuries, limits duty time, lowers fitness and in some cases may lead to a medical discharge.
“PFPS poses a threat to the health, fitness and subsequent readiness of the total Force,” said Webb, who has treated Soldiers on Fort Campbell for more than 13 years.
So when Webb and former BACH PT Chief, Lt. Col. Zack Solomon, had an opportunity for the physical therapy team to work on a research project aimed at finding effective methods to treat service members with PFPS, they sought approval from the Institutional Review Board at Regional Health Command Atlantic to participate.
Their partnered research study with the University of Tennessee, the Tri-Services Nursing research program and the Henry Jackson Foundation titled, “Electrical Stimulation Therapies for Active Duty Military with Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: A Randomized Trial” ran for two years and was recently published in a the journal Military Medicine, where it may be shared among medical professionals.
The study supports Soldiers whose rigorous lifestyle and training can result in patellofemoral pain. The study included 130 active duty service member-volunteers with PFPS to determine if the use of neuromuscular electrical stimulation with an active home exercise program over a nine-week period can improve knee flexion and extension strength as well as physical functional performance and reduction of pain.
“The goal of this study was to help Soldiers regain physical capacity of strength, function and pain while restoring their readiness capability,” said Webb. “We implemented an active home exercise program combined with physical therapists applying neuromuscular electrical stimulation on Soldiers identified with PFPS who agreed to participate in the study.”
Army medical research plays a vital role in the advancement of military medicine. The findings from the study showed that electrical stimulation with a home exercise program showed greater improvement in strength compared to a group of Soldiers who performed a home exercise program only.