Q & A on patellofemoral pain

Jesse Gatlin, PT.
Dec 12, 2015

This rendering highlights the patella.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as runner’s knee, refers to a group of disorders that cause pain in the front of the knee. It may occur as a result of overuse, a traumatic injury with dislocation of the patella, or from poor alignment of the patella with the knee joint.

Symptoms include knee pain that hurts worst when your knees are bent during activities like sitting, squatting or climbing stairs. Sometimes the pain is accompanied by a grinding or popping sensation, and you may even experience occasional buckling of the knee, where it is unable to support your body weight and suddenly gives way.

Let’s answer some common questions about patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFS).

Q: Does patellofemoral pain only affect athletes?

No. Any person can suffer from PFS. While it is common in runners, cyclists and other athletes, even less active individuals, especially people who are overweight, can experience symptoms.

Q: If I have PFS, should I avoid activities that cause pain?

Yes. Until the problem is addressed, performing lots of squatting, running and prolonged sitting will aggravate the irritation in the knee. This is not a situation when you should try to “push through the pain.”

Q: Is surgery the only way to fix PFS?

No. Although surgery is necessary in some cases, there are several non-operative treatments to address PFS. Rest, anti-inflammatory medicines, ice, taping and bracing techniques, and physical therapy can effectively treat many instances of patellofemoral pain.

Q: Are there ways to prevent PFS from becoming a problem?

Yes. To decrease the likelihood of developing patellofemoral pain, stretch and warm up before activity such as running, increase activity levels gradually, and invest in proper footwear with adequate cushion and support.

Read more about PFS.