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Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.


Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS)

is pain in or around your patella (kneecap). PFPS is also called runner's knee or jumper's knee and is common in athletes.

Common signs and symptoms of PFPS:

  • Popping or crackling sounds 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, stiffness, or weakness in your knee

Call your doctor if:

  • You have trouble walking.
  • You have a fever.
  • Your knee brace or sleeve is too tight.
  • Your symptoms are not getting better, or they get worse.
  • Your pain and swelling increase even after you take pain medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


may include any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Surgery may be needed if other treatments do not work. During surgery, the back of your kneecap is smoothed. A ligament may also be cut to allow the knee to return to its normal position. Surgery may be done through small incisions as during arthroscopy, or you may need a larger incision. A cut in your shin bone may also be needed to help line up your kneecap correctly.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

Prevent another episode:

  • Wear the right shoes for your activities. Increase activity gradually.
  • Warm up before you exercise. Stretch your leg muscles before and after activity.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Change your activity. You may need to rest your knee. You may need to change your exercise routine to low-impact activities.
  • Apply ice on your knee for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Elevate your knee above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your leg on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably. Do not put a pillow directly under your knee.
    Elevate Leg
  • Support your knee by wrapping it with tape or an elastic bandage. You may need a brace for more support. This will help decrease swelling and keep your kneecap in the correct spot.
  • Wear shoe inserts as directed. Orthotics or arch supports help keep your foot and ankle stable and in line to decrease stress on your knee.
  • Go to physical therapy as directed. A physical therapist will teach you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Ask your healthcare provider what a healthy weight is for you. Ask him or her to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight. Weight loss can help decrease pressure on your knee.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

You may be referred to an orthopedic surgeon. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.