Adding Mindfulness Practice to Exercise Therapy for Female Recreational Runners With Patellofemoral Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial

J Athl Train. 2021 Aug 1;56(8):902-911. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-0214.20.


Context: Considering current models that highlight the role of psychological components in pain management, mindfulness practice may be an effective strategy in the management of pain.

Objective: To examine the effects of adding an 8-week mindfulness program to exercise therapy on the perceptions of pain severity, knee function, fear of movement, and pain catastrophizing of female recreational runners with patellofemoral pain (PFP).

Design: Randomized controlled clinical trial.

Setting: University laboratory.

Patients or other participants: Thirty female runners (age = 28.3 ± 7.08 years) with PFP were randomly assigned to the exercise or mindfulness-exercise group.

Intervention(s): The exercise-only group followed a protocol (18 weeks, 3 sessions/wk) that featured training modifications to help control injury-related symptoms. The mindfulness-exercise group received an 8-week mindfulness intervention in addition to the exercise protocol. The mindfulness component started 4 weeks before the exercise component; therefore, the 2 components overlapped during the first 4 weeks of the intervention.

Main outcome measure(s): Usual pain, pain during stepping, and pain during running were assessed using visual analog scales. Functional limitations of the knee were assessed using the Knee Outcome Survey. Fear of movement, pain catastrophizing, and coping strategies were measured via the Tampa Scale for Kinesiophobia, the Pain Catastrophizing Scale, and the Coping Strategies Questionnaire, respectively. These outcomes were assessed at baseline, at week 9, and after 18 weeks.

Results: Pain during running, pain during stepping, and functional limitations of the knee were less for the mindfulness-exercise group than for the exercise-only group (P values < .05). The mindfulness-exercise group reported greater perceived treatment effects than the exercise-only group (P < .05). Pain catastrophizing was less and coping strategies were more favorable for mindfulness-exercise participants than for exercise-only participants (P values < .05).

Conclusions: Mindfulness practice can be an effective adjunct to exercise therapy in the rehabilitation of PFP in recreational female runners.

Keywords: anterior knee pain; sport injuries; sport rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletes
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mindfulness*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome* / therapy
  • Running*
  • Young Adult