Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Category: Education

What is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?

Ligaments of the kneePatellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) refers to pain at the front of the knee related to the pulley-like complex of muscles and tendons that straighten your leg. PFPS tends to develop slowly over time, and is more commonly aggravated by squatting, kneeling, running, taking stairs, and sitting with bent knees for extended periods. Anatomically, this pain can be attributed to the way your kneecap (patella) moves along your thighbone (femur) when you bend your knees. It is more likely that symptoms of this syndrome will improve more rapidly if they are detected early and treated appropriately.

Why does it happen?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome occurs almost equally in men and women, with an estimated 55% of PFPS occuring in females. There are many potential causes of PFPS, the following four factors may significantly contribute to the onset of PFPS:

  • Relative overuse, such as a sudden increase in activity, or a return to activity after a long break
  • Below average hip strength
  • Poor movement mechanics which can cause extra stress on the structures around the kneecap
  • Joint hypermobility, being ‘double jointed’, especially at the knee and foot

Pain in your knee may be caused by a combination of causes, including lifestyle decisions, work decisions, and participation in physical activity.

The role of Physiotherapy

It is important to remember that pain and injuries often have manyimage contributing factors. Your Physiotherapist will perform a thorough assessment and work with you to find the most effective treatment strategy. Some approaches for treating patellofemoral pain are:

  • Stretching and strengthening exercises
  • Education for self-management
  • Manual therapies such joint mobilization
  • Deep and superficial massage
  • Taping and Bracing
  • Modalities such as ultrasound, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), and acupuncture

Often a combination of techniques will be performed to treat the underlying cause(s) and to reduce your pain. Ergonomic or movement modifications may be useful to reduce symptoms while you heal.


Willy, R. W., Hoglund, L. T., Barton, C. J., Bolgla, L. A., Scalzitti, D. A., Logerstedt, D. S., Lynch, A. D., Snyder-Mackler, L., & McDonough, C. M. (2019). Patellofemoral Pain. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 49(9), CPG1–CPG95.