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Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome


  • Patellofemoral (pah-tel-o-FEM-or-al) pain syndrome, also called PFPS, is a condition marked by pain under or around the patella (kneecap). The patella moves in different directions and may come into contact with the femur (thigh bone) when moving the knee. PFPS may happen due to frequent contact and rubbing of the patella on the femur. It may also happen when the patella gets out of place. PFPS may be a result of having a flat foot or a high-arched foot. Tight or weak thigh muscles may also increase your chance of having PFPS.
  • You may have knee pain that is worse when going up or down the stairs, squatting, running, or cycling. Pain may also happen if you sit for a long time with the knees bent. You may have crepitus (creaking) and sudden swelling in the knee, or feel your knee is giving way. Your caregiver may check for PFPS by looking for any abnormal knee movements. A computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), an x-ray, or arthroscopy may also be done. Treatment aims to ease pain, keeping the patella in the correct position with the femur, and preventing further problems. Treatment may include resting the knee, using assistive devices, medicines, rehabilitation, and surgery. With treatment, you may be able to fully recover and continue your normal daily activities.


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.


Treatment of a PFPS may cause unpleasant side effects. You may have nausea (upset stomach), vomiting (throwing up), bleeding, or kidney problems with certain medicines. You could get an infection or bleed too much with surgery. Wearing a knee brace or a sleeve may cause discomfort and limit activity. If left untreated, PFPS may cause weakness of your knee. You may have pain with running, cycling, or walking up or down stairs or ramps. The chances of treating PFPS are better when causes are found and treated as soon as possible. Call your caregiver if you have concerns about your condition, medicines, or care.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


You may be given the following medicines:

  • Medicines to treat pain, swelling, or fever: These medicines are safe for most people to use. However, they can cause serious problems when used by people with certain medical conditions. Tell caregivers if you have liver or kidney disease or a history of bleeding in your stomach.
  • Steroids: This medicine may be given to decrease inflammation.

Physical therapy:

You may need to see a physical therapist to teach you special exercises. These exercises help improve movement and decrease pain. Physical therapy can also help improve strength and decrease your risk for loss of function.


  • Arthroscopy: Your caregiver may want to look inside your knee to check for injuries or other problems. He will make a small incision (cut) on your knee and insert a scope through it. The scope is a long tube with a magnifying glass, a camera, and a light on the end.
  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
  • Computerized tomography scan: This is also called a CT or CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your hips, thighs, or legs.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging: This is also called MRI. During the MRI, pictures of your knee or the area around it are taken. An MRI may be used to look for other problems that may be causing the knee pain.
  • X-rays: These are pictures of the bones and tissues in a part of your body. You may need x-rays of your hips, thighs, knees, or legs to look for fractures, arthritis, and other problems.

Treatment options:

You may need surgery if other treatment fails. Surgery to correct a problem that is causing the PFPS may be done. Your caregiver may smooth out the back of the patella to decrease rubbing. A ligament in the knee may also be cut to allow the knee to return to its normal position.

Learn more about Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Inpatient Care)

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference

Further information

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