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Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

What is patellofemoral pain syndrome?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is pain under or around your patella (kneecap). PFPS can develop when the patella rubs against the femur (thigh bone) as you move your knee. It may also happen when the patella moves out of place.

What increases my risk for PFPS?

  • Fallen or high arches

  • Increased activity, or overactivity

  • A hip and knee that are not lined up correctly

  • Leg muscles that are not balanced

What are the signs and symptoms of PFPS?

  • Feeling that your knee is going to give way

  • Crepitus (creaking) when you move your knee

  • Pain when you go up or down the stairs, squat, run, or ride a bike

  • Pain after you sit for a long time with your knees bent

  • Swelling in your knee

How is PFPS diagnosed?

Your caregiver will examine your knee and look for swelling, warm skin, and crepitus. He may move your legs in different directions to check for pain, and to see how your kneecap moves. You may also need the following:

  • An x-ray, CT scan, or MRI scan may be used. You may be given contrast dye before a CT or MRI scan to help caregivers see your knee better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the caregiver if you have any metal in or on your body.

  • Arthroscopy is surgery to look inside your knee. Caregivers use an arthroscope to examine your knee. An arthroscope is a bendable tube with a light and camera on the end.

How is PFPS treated?

The goal of treatment is to decrease pain, keep the kneecap in the correct position, and prevent more problems.

  • Medicines are given to decrease pain and swelling.

  • Surgery may be needed to smooth the back of your kneecap. You may also need to have surgery to cut a ligament in the knee to allow the knee to return to its normal position.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Rest your knee. Rest helps decrease pain and swelling. Avoid activities that increase knee pain.

  • Apply ice on your knee. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Leave the ice on for 15 to 20 minutes every hour, or as directed. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.

  • Use assistive devices as directed. Your caregiver may show you how to use tape or a brace to keep your kneecap in the correct spot. He may recommend crutches if putting weight on your leg causes pain. He may also recommend shoes or arch supports.

  • Go to physical therapy as directed. A physical therapist will teach you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

When should I contact my caregiver?

  • You have a fever.

  • Your knee brace or sleeve is too tight.

  • Your symptoms are not getting better.

  • Your pain and swelling increase even after you take your pain medicine.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have difficulty walking.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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