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What is patellofemoral pain syndrome?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is pain in the front of the knee. It frequently occurs in teenagers, manual laborers, and athletes. It sometimes is caused by wearing down, roughening, or softening of the cartilage under the kneecap. The main symptom of patellofemoral pain syndro  me is knee pain, especially when sitting with bent knees, squatting, jumping, or using the stairs (especially going down stairs). You may also experience occasional knee buckling, in which the knee suddenly and unexpectedly gives way and does not support your body weight. A catching, popping, or grinding sensation when walking or with knee movement is also common.

What causes patellofemoral pain syndrome?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome may be caused by overuse, injury, excess weight, a kneecap that is not properly aligned (patellar tracking disorder), or changes under the kneecap.

Is this a problem?

Usually not. Patellofemoral pain can cause limitations in activities because of the discomfort but usually there is not long term damage. Patients may continue with activities as tolerated.

How is patellofemoral pain syndrome diagnosed?

Your health professional will conduct a medical history and physical exam to determine the cause of your pain. In some cases, imaging tests including X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be done. These tests allow a doctor to view the tissues inside your knee to rule out damage to the structure of the knee and the tissues connected to it.

How is it treated?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome can be relieved by avoiding activities that make symptoms worse, such as sitting or kneeling in the bent-knee position for long periods of time and bent-knee exercises, such as squats, deep knee bends, or 90-degree leg extensions.

Taking nonprescription anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium, to decrease swelling, stiffness, and pain may also be helpful in addition to ice and rest.

Physical therapy exercises include stretching to increase flexibility and decrease tightness around the knee, and straight-leg raises and other exercises to strengthen the quadriceps muscle.


Other Works Consulted

Dixit S, et al. (2007). Management of patellofemoral pain syndrome. American Family Physician, 75(2): 195–202.

Earl JE, Vetter CS (2007). Patellofemoral pain. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, 18(2007): 439–458.

Grudziak JS, Musahl V (2007). Patella instability and dislocation in adolescents section of The youth athlete. In PJ McMahon, ed., Current Diagnosis and Treatment in Sports Medicine, p. 230. New York: McGraw-Hill.




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