Is There a Benefit to Using Elastic Resistance Bands for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?
Physical therapists often use elastic bands to give resistance to muscles during strength training programs. The bands come in different colors. Each color signifies the strength of the resistance starting with yellow (mild resistance) and going up from yellow to red to blue, green, and black (greatest resistance).
Recently, a physical therapist from the Department of Kinesiology at Louisiana State University took the time to review studies using elastic resistance to treat patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). The goal was to look for and report on any evidence that this method of treating PFPS is effective.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) affects one of every four young athletes. Pain along the front of the knee with activities like squatting, running, sitting for long periods of time, and going up and down stairs is common. The condition is so common in runners that it is often called runner's knee.
Physical therapists and sports physicians are actively seeking ways to help treat this problem. The goals of treatment are to reduce pain, decrease swelling, and restore function by improving strength and joint motion.
Elastic bands are used to strengthen hip and knee muscles that are weak or imbalanced. A strengthening program is part of the rehab program for PFPS because previous studies have shown that muscle weakness is one of the main reasons why young athletes develop this problem. Women are more likely to develop PFPS than men -- probably because of anatomic differences in alignment of the pelvis, hip, and knee.
The author searched three of the largest and best known research databases for studies evaluating the use of elastic resistance bands for PFPS. He found eight studies that met the criteria for inclusion. The studies had to be peer-reviewed. Peer-reviewed means the studies were examined carefully by others within the profession before being accepted for publication.
Patients had to be in the research study a minimum of four weeks. And, of course, elastic resistance bands had to be used in a muscle strengthening program. Seven of the studies had 20 or more patients enrolled.
Seven of the studies were considered randomized prospective. This means that patients were randomly placed in a treatment group and the study was done as the patients participated in the program. One study was retrospective in design -- that means the researchers looked back at results after the study was over.
Results did show that using elastic resistance bands improves muscle strength. But the significance of this finding for patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) was lost by the fact that the studies were poorly designed. For example, there are ways to predict how many people must be in a study for the results to be meaningful. That concept is called adequate power. Only three of the seven studies were adequately powered (i.e., had enough people in the study to generate statistically significant meaning).
Phil Page, PhD, PT, ATC, CSCS, FACSM. Effectiveness of Elastic Resistance in Rehabilitation of Patients with Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: What Is the Evidence? In Sports Health. March/April 2011. Vol. 3. No. 2. Pp. 190-194.
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