Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

What is patellofemoral pain syndrome?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is a medical condition where you experience pain around and under the kneecap, also called the patella. The patella is where the knee connects with the lower-end portion of the femur (thighbone). Also called runner's or jumper's knee, the condition affects both children and adults. Patellofemoral pain syndrome may occur in one or both knees.

The pain and stiffness caused by patellofemoral pain syndrome may result in difficulty climbing stairs, kneeling down, and performing other everyday activities.

What causes patellofemoral pain syndrome?

In most cases, patellofemoral pain syndrome may be caused by vigorous physical activities that result in repeated stress on the knee, like squatting, climbing stairs and jogging. PFPS may also be caused by a change in physical activity. This change may be in the frequency of the activity, like increasing the number of days you exercise per week, or it may be the duration or intensity of activity, like running longer distances.

Other causes that may contribute to the development of patellofemoral pain syndrome include:

  • The use of improper sports training equipment and techniques
  • Any changes in footwear or playing surface
  • Trauma to the kneecap, like a dislocation or fracture
  • Knee surgery, especially repair to the anterior cruciate ligament with the use of your own patellar tendon as a graft
  • Muscle imbalances or weaknesses

What are the signs of patellofemoral pain syndrome?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome normally causes a dull, aching pain in the front of your knee. Other common symptoms of runner’s knee include:

  • Kneecap that is very tender to touch
  • Grinding, rubbing, or clicking sound of the kneecap which may be heard when bending or straightening the knee
  • Pain in the kneecap that occurs when you are active
  • Pain in or around the kneecap when you are sitting for a long period of time with your knees bent. This may result in joint weakness or instability.

Symptoms of patellofemoral pain syndrome may occur and look like other medical conditions. Therefore, it is important that you seek medical attention when you experience the above-mentioned symptoms.

How does Dr van Niekerk check for Patellofemoral pain syndrome?

After conducting a physical exam, Dr van Niekerk may deem it necessary to order an x-ray or MRI to see if there is any damage to nearby tissue and bone in the knee.

How do you treat patellofemoral pain syndrome?

Conservative treatment, like medication, compression, elevation and physical therapy, may be recommended as first-line treatment. For severe patellofemoral pain syndrome, the orthopaedic surgeon will conduct an MRI to evaluate the knee for structural issues. If there are any issues with the structure of the joint, surgery will be indicated. The surgical procedure involves the orthopaedic surgeon removing the damaged bone or cartilage or moving the tendons to correct any kneecap misalignment.


Can patellofemoral pain syndrome be prevented?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome may be prevented by adjusting your activity level or training routine. Other prevention methods may include:

  • Stretching and warming up before doing any activity
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Avoiding doing activities that hurt your knee in the past
  • Wearing appropriate shoes for your activities
How is patellofemoral pain syndrome diagnosed?

To diagnose PFPS, the doctor may conduct a physical examination and order an x-ray or MRI to rule out other medical conditions that may cause the pain.

When should I visit the doctor?

Seek medical attention if you experience knee pain or start noticing symptoms of PFPS, especially after sitting for a long time or after exercising.