Patellofemoral Pain

peer review

This content has been reviewed and approved by Kathy Doubleday DPT, OCS.

Patellofemoral Syndrome (PFP), or “Runner’s Knee,” is caused when the kneecap (patella) rubs unevenly against the thigh bone (femur) causing pain. This is more common in young females.

Patellofemoral Syndrome can occur due to an injury or slowly worsening symptoms. A primary cause for PFP is poor alignment of the joint due to weak hip and trunk muscles causing a knocked knee position when using the knee, especially for landing or jumping. The condition can also be related to overuse or degenerative disease. Inadequate conditioning including stretching and muscle tightness can contribute to the injury.

  • Dull, aching pain under the kneecap during activity
  • Pain during squatting, sitting or climbing stairs
  • A grinding (crepidice) sound may be heard

Surgical treatment for patellofemoral pain is very rarely needed and is done only for severe cases that do not respond to nonsurgical treatment. Your physical therapist may analyze your walking and running patterns. They may test the strength of your hip and thigh muscles to find out if weakness is contributing to your pain. Medical imaging, such as an X-ray or MRI, is not helpful in diagnosing PFP. Treatments include:

  • Rest
  • Strengthening
  • Exercises
  • Orthotic Shoe inserts
  • Physical Therapy

Printable Patellofemoral Pain Exercises (pdf)

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