Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: What It Is And What To Look Out For

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, or PFPS, is a broad term that describes pain at the front of the knee around or behind the patella (kneecap). Whilst it is a condition that often occurs with high impact sports and is sometimes referred to as “Runner’s Knee” or “Jumper’s Knee”, it is important to remember that PFPS can still occur in non-athletes and with everyday activities. Read on to learn more about PFPS and its warning signs.

What Does The Knee Look Like?

The illustration shows the following structures: patella, femur, fibula, tibia.

Our knee is a complex joint made up of 3 bones: the lower end of the femur (thighbone), the upper end of the tibia (shinbone) and the patella (kneecap). Specifically, the patella sits in front of the femur and will glide along a groove known as the trochlear groove during knee movement, forming the patellofemoral joint. Sometimes pain can arise within the patellofemoral joint between the patella and femur, known as PFPS.

What Does PFPS Look Like?

Common signs & symptoms of PFPS include:

  • Pain coming from the front of the knee, particularly behind the kneecap.
  • Pain that has been developing slowly over time (‘insidious onset’).
  • Pain with activities that increase pressure at patellofemoral joint, such as stair climbing, kneeling, squatting, cross-legged sitting, uphill walking.

There can be a variety of factors that lead to development of PFPS, and in most cases it is a combination of factors that cause pain. The most common causes of PFPS include:

  • Overuse or overload of the knee: this is occurs when the patella is exposed to repeated stress or excessive compressive force.
  • Patellar malalignment: this occurs when the patella moves or ‘tracks’ abnormally along the trochlear groove, which can cause irritation or additional pressure.

How is PFPS managed?

Treatment of PFPS will largely focus on reducing pain and symptoms, increasing muscle strength if weakness is present, correcting or improving patella alignment and biomechanics, and optimising knee function for sport or other activities. Conservative management of PFPS may include a combination of interventions, such as exercise-based therapy, manual therapy, use of taping/bracing/orthotics, and/or activity modification.


Finding the right intervention or combination of interventions, however, will depend on the person as this may change with individual factors, for example, the severity of the condition, medical background, exercise background, type of occupation, etc. Reviewing with a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist is likely be helpful in this case, as they will be able to thoroughly assess the knee, provide recommendations and devise a treatment plan specific to a person to help manage PFPS and achieve
their goals.


Are you suffering from knee pain?

Wondering if it may be PFPS?

Book with us today and we can help kickstart your recovery journey.


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