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Outpatient Physical Therapy Since 2005

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Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)

February 17, 2015

Don’t jump or run into Spring with pain!  Do not allow anterior knee pain to take the hop out of your step!    - Ali Clark, MPT, North Grove

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) is a term that refers to a number of overuse injuries that cause pain in the front (anterior) part of the knee.  This injury is commonly seen in runners, jumpers, and cyclists who all put an increased amount of stress on their knees while exercising, but PFPS can also be seen in nonathletes.  Many things may contribute to the development of PFPS.  Problems may include:

  • Tightness or weakness in thigh muscles
  • Kneecap in an abnormal position
  • Increase in activities that put stress over the knee (example: running, jumping, twisting)
  • Foot structure (flat feet)

The knee joint is made up of the lower end of the femur (thighbone) and the upper end of the tibia (shin bone) and the patella (kneecap).  Many ligaments and tendons help stabilize and support the knee, along with muscles that help support the knee joint and make movements easier.  The patella sits in a groove of the thighbone and helps you to bend and straighten your knee.

PFPS occurs when structures around and in the knee joint become painful.  Tendons, cartilage that lines the knee joint, and the fat pad beneath the patella all can be affected by pain.

So what are some symptoms?

  • Dull ache or pain behind or in the front part of the patella
  • Symptoms more noticeable with deep knee bends, walking down stairs, going down hills/inclines
  • Pain after sitting for extended periods of time (as if sitting through a movie)
  • Pain when standing after sitting for a long time
  • Popping, cracking, or grinding sensation when you bend and straighten your knee

How can physical therapy help?

Physical therapy can help decrease your pain and improve your knee function.  It is important to get medical help early in order to prevent further damage of surrounding knee structures and even avoid surgery!  A variety of treatment techniques can be used by physical therapists to help alleviate pain and symptoms.  Treatments may include: 

  • Pain management with use of therapeutic modalities (ultrasound and iontophoresis)
  • Soft tissue mobilizations
  • Taping and/or bracing to correct patellar positioning
  • Stretching/strengthening of thigh/lower leg muscles that are specific to your impairments
  • Patient education and body mechanic training for return to exercise/activities
  • Home exercise programs

Each patient is unique with symptoms and therefore a customized physical therapy program will be developed based on a complete examination that addresses patient specific needs.  Call or stop in to one of our clinics for a visit and speak to therapist!

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome.  Retrieved from
Runners Knee.  Retrieved from

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