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What Is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), also known as runner’s knee, is a musculoskeletal condition of the knee, characterized by pain behind or around the patella and aggravated by loading of the knee joint in a flexed position (e.g. running, climbing up and down the stairs, and squatting). PFPS can be chronic or acute. In general, women are twice as likely to be affected by PFPS than men (2:1). And the condition can be seen more in adolescents who are in their 20s and 30s.

Currently, there is not a single test that can confirm the diagnosis of PFPS, rather, it is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning the clinicians only diagnose PFPS when all other potential knee conditions are ruled out. However, researchers still put together a combination of factors that could contribute to PFPS.

1) Malalignment and muscle weakness

PFPS can be caused by leg length discrepancies, abnormal morphology of the kneecap, the trochlea, or the knee cap. Tight hip or hamstrings or weak hip abductors.

2) Overactivity or overload

Increased workload or activity of the patella might cause PFPS.

3) Trauma

Any direct or indirect trauma to the patella might cause PFPS.

4) Special test

Positive Clarke’s test suggests a dysfunction in the patellofemoral joint.


The goal of physiotherapy treatment is pain reduction, improve patellar tracking (the movement of the patella on the tibia), and help patients return to their previous activities. In the acute phase, treatment usually includes activity modification, anti-inflammatory medication, and modalities such as ice. During the recovering phase, it is important to begin strengthening, functional and mobility exercises of the knee and hip. Patellar taping is also a good way to offload the patella and promote healthy patella alignment.

Sidenote: Some other conditions can appear like PFPS, such as: patellofemoral osteoarthritis, Osgood Schlatter's disease, plica syndrome, bursitis, saphenous neuritis, and quadriceps tendinopathy.

AT C.E.S., our therapists can find the best solution to help you recover from this condition!

Reference: Bump, J. M., & Lewis, L. (2021). Patellofemoral Syndrome. StatPearls [Internet].

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