Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is a condition characterized by pain around or behind the kneecap or patella. It is a common knee problem that can occur in both athletes and non-athletes. The pain is usually felt during activities that involve bending the knee, such as running, jumping, climbing stairs, or sitting for a long time with the knee bent. PFPS is also known as runner’s knee or jumper’s knee.

Causes of Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome

The exact cause of patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is not known. However, it is believed to be caused by a combination of factors, including:

  • Overuse or repeated stress on the knee joint, such as from running, jumping, or other high-impact activities
  • Muscle imbalances or weakness, particularly in the quadriceps and hip muscles
  • Alignment issues, such as a misaligned kneecap or poor tracking of the patella in the femoral groove
  • Trauma to the knee, such as a fall or blow to the knee
  • Arthritis or other joint conditions that can cause knee pain

Flat feet or overpronation, which can affect the alignment of the lower body and increase stress on the knee joint.

Signs and Symptoms of Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome

The signs and symptoms of patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) can vary, but the most common include:

  • Pain around or behind the kneecap that may be dull, aching, or sharp
  • Pain that increases with activities that involve bending the knee, such as running, jumping, climbing stairs, or sitting for a long time with the knee bent
  • Pain that worsens with prolonged activity or after sitting for a long time
  • Pain that improves with rest or after icing the knee
  • A popping or grinding sensation when moving the knee
  • Stiffness or swelling in the knee joint

Weakness or instability in the knee, especially when going up or down stairs or walking on uneven surfaces.

Treatment for Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome

Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment option for patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), and may include the following:

Strengthening exercises: Strengthening the muscles around the knee, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, can help support the knee joint and reduce pain.

Stretching exercises: Tightness in the muscles around the knee can contribute to PFPS. Stretching these muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, can help reduce pain.

Taping or bracing: Taping or bracing the knee can provide additional support and help alleviate pain.

Education and advice: Education and advice from a physiotherapist can help individuals better understand PFPS and learn strategies for managing pain and preventing further injury.

Activity modification: Modifying activities that exacerbate PFPS can help reduce pain and promote healing.

Manual therapy: Techniques such as massage, mobilization, or manipulation of the knee joint and surrounding tissues may help reduce pain and improve mobility.

Electrotherapy: Modalities such as ultrasound or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) may be used to help reduce pain and inflammation.

The specific physiotherapy treatment plan will depend on the individual’s specific symptoms and needs, and should be developed in consultation with a qualified physiotherapist.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about patella femoral pain syndrome please call us at 03 9836 1126.



van der Heijden, R. A., Lankhorst, N. E., van Linschoten, R., Bierma-Zeinstra, S. M. A., & van Middelkoop, M. (2021). Exercise therapy versus arthroscopic surgery for patients with patellofemoral pain syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

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