What Is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?


Patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as “runner’s knee,” is a condition that involves dull, aching pain in the front of the knee around the kneecap (patella). Patellofemoral pain syndrome is one of the most common knee conditions.


  • Dull, aching pain in the front of the knee
  • Increased pain when running, walking up and down stairs, sitting for extended periods, squatting or kneeling
  • Increased pain when trying to stand up after sitting for an extended period
  • Very tender kneecap
  • Grinding, crackling noise when using the knee


Although the exact cause of patellofemoral pain syndrome is not known, it is associated with the following:

  • Trauma to the knee (e.g, a direct hit or blow)
  • Overuse of the knee (e.g., repetitive exercises, such as lunges or running)
  • Foot issues, such as hypermobile feet (the joints of the feet move more than normal), fallen arches (flat feet), or overpronation (down and inward foot roll when walking)
  • Malalignment of any of the bones from the hips to the ankles
  • Weakened, deconditioned, tight or unbalanced thigh muscles
  • A medical condition, chondromalacia patella, which involves the breakdown of cartilage under the kneecap
  • Previous knee surgery


A health care professional will perform a physical exam to check for any tenderness of the knee, determine range of motion, and identify any knee instability. X-rays may be ordered to rule out other injuries to the knee.

Treatments (Header 1)

Most cases of patellofemoral pain syndrome respond well to at-home management and over-the-counter treatments, including the following:

  • The RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation)
  • NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin
  • Weight loss
  • Physical therapy
  • Knee brace or taping the knee

Although rarely needed for patellofemoral pain syndrome, knee surgery is an option.

  • An arthroscopy involves the insertion of a small camera into the joint and the removal of any damaged cartilage. Tendons that may be pulling on the kneecap may also be released during an arthroscopy.
  • A tibial tubercle transfer is another surgical procedure that may be performed to realign the patella.

Risk factors

Females are twice as likely as males to develop patellofemoral pain syndrome. It is also more common in adolescents and young adults. Participation in sports that involve running and jumping also increases the risk of developing patellofemoral pain syndrome (hence the name “runner’s” knee).

Did you find this helpful?
You may also like