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Patellofemoral pain syndrome

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Mar 4, 2023.

Overview

Patellofemoral (puh-tel-o-FEM-uh-rul) pain syndrome is pain at the front of the knee, around the kneecap. The kneecap also is known as the patella. Patellofemoral pain syndrome is sometimes called runner's knee. It's more common in people who run and who play sports that involve running and jumping.

The knee pain often increases when running, walking up or down stairs, sitting for long periods, or squatting. Simple treatments, such as rest and ice, often help. But sometimes patellofemoral pain needs physical therapy.

Symptoms

Patellofemoral pain syndrome usually causes a dull, aching pain in the front of the knee. The following can increase the pain:

When to see your doctor

If the knee pain doesn't improve within a few days or it gets harder to move the knee, call your health care provider.

Causes

Patellofemoral pain syndrome can have several causes. It's been linked with:

Risk factors

Factors that can increase your risk include:

Prevention

Sometimes knee pain just happens. But certain steps may help prevent the pain.

Diagnosis

Your health care provider might ask about your history of knee problems, press on your knee and move your leg into a variety of positions.

Sometimes imaging tests can help find the cause of knee pain. Tests might include:

Treatment

Treatment of patellofemoral pain often begins with simple measures. Rest the knee as much as possible. Try not to do things that increase the pain, such as climbing stairs, kneeling or squatting.

Medicines

If needed, take pain relievers you can get without a prescription. These include acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve). Don't take them for more than 2 to 3 weeks.

Therapy

A physical therapist might suggest:

Surgical and other procedures

If simple treatments don't relieve pain, a health care provider might suggest:

Preparing for an appointment

You might start by seeing your primary care provider. Or you might be referred to a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, also known as a physiatrist, a physical therapist, an orthopedic surgeon or a sports medicine specialist.

Here's information to help you get ready for your appointment.

What you can do

Before your appointment, make a list of the following:

Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you're given. Also, if you've had X-rays or other imaging tests of your knees, try to bring copies of them to your appointment.

For patellofemoral pain syndrome, questions to ask include:

Ask any other questions you have.

What to expect from your doctor

Be prepared to answer questions, such as:

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